Patrick Morrisey

WV Attorney General Patrick Morrisey

BLUEFIELD — After the 2018 political campaign ended with a close loss to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said it was a matter of diving back into his “day job.”

But with his term as AG up for grabs in 2020, he said during a stop in Bluefield Friday that he has not yet decided what his political future may bring.

“I am leaning toward reelection but I have made no formal announcement,” he said, adding that the decision will be made later this year.

With Manchin considering a run for the Governor’s job next year, if he would win, that seat would become open on Jan. 1, 2021. Gov. Jim Justice would appoint a replacement to serve until the 2021 general election.

However, according to an article in the political publication The Hill, the situation could be a bit murky.

If Manchin wins he could possibly appoint a fellow Democrat to replace him in the Senate, the article says, though it’s not a sure thing, according to the West Virginia’s secretary of state’s office.

If Manchin resigns his Senate seat following the certification of the election but before he takes the gubernatorial oath of office, then the current Republican governor, Jim Justice, will appoint his successor, according to the article.

Should Manchin resign his Senate seat just before taking the oath of office, the article says, then he could appoint his own successor as long as he does so before the notice of resignation reaches Justice’s office.

Regardless, Morrisey says he is not involved in the political ramifications at this point.

“We try not to get in the middle of the political scrum because we want to get more done,” he said. “There will be plenty of time for that (when he decides what to do for 2020).”

But he does not rule out seeking that Senate seat and he has a “good” working relationship with Justice.

“There is always a possibility,” he said.

Morrisey lost to Manchin last year, but it was extremely close with less than 20,000 votes separating the two.

“We put it all in on the table and we lost one of the closest races in the country,” he said. “You learn from your experiences and we lost to the one guy on the other side that could have won, and he did. My hope was that we just get back to our job. We do really good work for the people every day..”

Morrisey said he is hopeful people will see that work.

“When you get knocked down you get right back up,” he said. “You do it again and you keep winning for the state. We have a very good record and we keep building on it.”

Since the election, that is what he has been doing.

“I get to focus on my day job every day,” he said of his current term after the 2018 campaign. “When you run for public office and you put everything out there, it’s nice just to focus on getting things done. That’s our motto. We like to get things done and win for West Virginia.”

That is what people see when they vote for a candidate, he added – what they have accomplished.

“We are going to see what happens (in 2020),” he said. “But people want to see what you do when you are at your day job.”

Morrisey pointed to many accomplishments in that job, especially the successful moves to combat the opioid crisis, including lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies, successful litigation against the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) to rewrite the national drug order rules and the best practices policy that has more stringent guidelines for doctors, pharmacies and all those involved in the medical process of prescribing opioids and filling orders.

“That’s little ole West Virginia out front fighting the opioid epidemic,” he said of the lawsuits and changes. “That’s a great thing.”

When he took office in 2013, the AG office had no unit to fight substance abuse.

“We had to start from scratch,” he said, but it has all been worth it. “Every time we make progress we are saving lives, so we have to keep working. More needs to be done.”

That work also includes addressing an unintended consequence of cracking down on the supply of opioids and how they are prescribed.

Morrisey said he is aware that some people who have chronic pain may have more trouble obtaining the needed pain medication.

“The key I think is to ensure that those who have been on it (pain meds) for a long time and have legitimate medical needs, they can continue to get it and it’s done with the right protections,” he said.

Morrisey said when action is taken on issues, the pendulum may swing too far in the other direction.

With diversion of opioids (from unneeded prescriptions) and the manufacture and distribution of too many pills, the pendulum swung far too much toward the easy availability of the drugs, and has gone the other way.

“We have to make sure people get the meds they need,” he said. “You can’t move the pendulum all the way to other side and deny people medicine they need. The problem is we were way over on the other side (too many opioids flooding the market) and we need to make sure there is that balance.”

Morrisey also pointed to the successful lawsuit filed by a coalition of states against the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) regarding the restrictive Clean Power Plan that, he said, would have done more harm to the coal industry. The power plan has since been taken off the agenda for the EPA in part because of that lawsuit.

He is also getting ready to defend the state against a lawsuit that will be filed by the West Virginia Education Association over the recent legislation passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor.

His office has been notified of the suit that challenges the omnibus education bill on constitutional grounds.

“We will probably receive that complaint in a couple of weeks so we are gearing up to see what the unions are going to push for and we will evaluate that,” he said.

Morrisey’s office also been involved in litigation regarding the Catholic Church and abuse allegations that were not pursued by the church.

“We have a hearing on that Sept. 10,” he said. “That’s our effort to try to bring transparency to the church. As a result of a lot of our work, the church released a list of 40 credibly accused priests. If we don’t do the investigation that information never comes out.”

His office also recently reached a settlement with Equifax (credit report business) over a data breach which will mean some money for the state as well as for consumers, and he is busy being involved in consumer fraud issues as well as fraud in public programs like Medicaid.

“I am proud of the work of our office,,” he said. “This has probably been the busiest stretch since i took office in 2013. We have a lot on our plate.”

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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