Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


April 20, 2014

Election 2014: Candidates forgo the drama, but go to the dogs when warranted

— — The rites of spring at the Bluefield Daily Telegraph include editorial board sessions before the May primary. This year, most of our local races are not contested with the exception of a few, including the House 26th seat encompassing most of McDowell and a portion of Mercer County and the Mercer County Commission.

Last week we held these editorial board sessions, expecting possible fireworks and drama during the meetings. We were pleasantly surprised to find that neither occurred.


The session with House 26th race contenders could have presented awkward moments. Democrat incumbent Clif Moore was arrested two weeks ago by state troopers in McDowell County on a DUI charge. It was his second such arrest. His challenger, Democrat Pat McKinney, is a local law enforcement officer.

We were not sure what to expect when the closed-door meeting commenced.

Moore, acting on the advice of counsel, declined to speak on his current legal woes. However, he did talk intensely and passionately about the current issues facing McDowell and Mercer counties, and the need for solutions to these problems. He also addressed the current partisanship in Charleston, and his beliefs on the benefits of working with those across the aisle.

In a somewhat surprising moment, Moore said if he were leading the House he would not hesitate to appoint Republicans to chair committees. Citing Mercer Republican John Shott’s intelligence and leadership skills, Moore said he would appoint Shott to chair the Judiciary Committee.

McKinney, to his credit, did not pounce on Moore’s current arrest. Instead, he spoke of the counties’ needs, and possible solutions that could be addressed if he won a position to the state House of Delegates.

It was admirable that McKinney could have attacked but opted to rise above the headlines and focus on the issues.

Overall, it was a good session with both men outlying their plans and goals if obtaining the seat in Charleston.


Next up was the Mercer County Commission meeting. With six candidates it was a packed room. Those running for the commission seat include Republican Greg Puckett, and Democrats Phillip Ball, Terry Basham (who was appointed to fill the seat of the late Joe Coburn), Bob Carter, Lyle Cottle and John Sommers.

Having been a part of countless county commission editorial board sessions in past years, I can attest that this is one race that has often been disappointing. During too many elections, we interviewed candidates who were not qualified, nor up to date on the problems and issues facing the county.

Last week, it was gratifying to note this year is different. All the candidates came to our meeting well-prepared and ready to speak on the challenges facing Mercer County.

We quizzed the candidates on issues ranging from fire fees and the animal shelter to economic development and the possible need for a county administrator. All answered the questions knowledgeably and thoroughly. They did not always agree on solutions to certain problems, but they presented opinions based on their knowledge, background and anticipated expectations.

Overall, it was a lively hour that boded well for Mercer County.


It should have been obvious that the animal shelter would be on the agenda during the Mercer County Commission editorial board session. Who could forget the brouhaha that ensued in 2011 when commissioner Mike Vinciguerra and then-commissioner Jay Mills opted to “wipe the slate clean” and euthanize all animals at the shelter. Animal lovers in the county rebelled and united. It resulted in a much-needed spotlight shining on the commissioners and their actions.

At the Daily Telegraph, we were aghast at the mass euthanasia, but also shocked by the illegal meeting that preceded the act. When two of three county commissioners get together and make a decision — during a formal meeting or not — it represents an official act.

The mass euthanasia decision, made by Mills and Vinceguerra during their visit to the shelter, was clearly a violation of the sunshine law.


Talk of the animal shelter as well as regional cooperation was at the forefront during last week’s editorial board session.

But another issue grabbing headlines of late is a proposed dog park in Bluefield. City officials envisioned such a park at the old Fairview School site, but at a recent meeting several people spoke out against that plan. However, that doesn’t mean the concept of a dog park is a bad idea. What’s the saying about location being everything?

In the spirit of regional cooperation, perhaps officials from Bluefield, Princeton and Mercer County could work with those from Tazewell County and other areas to develop a regional dog park — one that could be used by canines and their owners from across southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.

Despite its prominence as a talking point, there has been little success in regionalism in past years. Maybe if we go to the dogs it could result in a fresh start on uniting for a greater good to the benefit of all.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at Follow her @BDTPerry.


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