Editorial: Statewide office-holders receive mixed reviews
West Virginia voters in this fall's general election will decide who runs the state's elections, ensures the food we eat is safe, keeps a watch on state government spending, oversees investments in our children's college educations and serves as the state government's chief legal counsel.
The offices responsible for those duties are secretary of state, commissioner of agriculture, auditor, treasurer and attorney general. Here are The Herald-Dispatch's recommendations:
Incumbent Democrats Glen Gainer III, auditor, and Natalie Tennant, secretary of state, have done worthy jobs in their current roles and merit re-election.
Gainer's office is responsible for the financial accountability of state funds as well as money handled by county boards and sheriffs. Gainer has served well in this position since 1992 and his office has made strides in improving the public's access to information about state spending. In addition, state government is undergoing a change to a new computer system and software that will bring all state agencies online with the same accounting system. Gainer should be kept in office to complete this enormous task.
During her first term in office, Tennant faced several challenges, the most obvious being conducting special elections in an abbreviated time frame for U.S. senator and governor. She for the most part did a credible job. In addition, her office has improved the efficiency of business licensing in both her office and for businesses, and tackled election fraud in Lincoln County. The experience she has gained makes her the better choice for this position.
For the first time in decades, West Virginia will have a new commissioner of agriculture due to the retirement of Gus Douglass. Both Democratic candidate Walt Helmick and Republican nominee Kent Leonhardt are credible candidates, and both present solid ideas for boosting the state's agricultural economy. But Helmick's background as a state lawmaker for more than two decades and what appears to be a more workable plan for developing local farm markets give him the edge.
In the contests for the other two constitutional offices -- attorney general and treasurer -- it is time for changes.
Attorney General Darrell McGraw, who has held that office since 1992, has been aggressive in going after businesses whom he felt have done consumers wrong, but has been accused of going overboard in some cases. That, his critics say, has contributed to the state's reputation as having a poor legal climate. In addition, questions have been raised regarding his use of outside attorneys as well of his office's resources to promote himself, particularly during election years. McGraw's challenger, Patrick Morrisey, boasts 20 years of legal and policy experience and promises to carry out the office's duties in a fair manner, including seeking competitive bidding for outside attorneys and returning all money received in settlements to the state.
Questions also have been raised about four-term Treasurer John Perdue. Among them are whether employees in his office are forced to contribute to his election campaign and whether the use of "local government specialists" has as much or more to do with promoting Perdue than treasury programs. Perhaps the largest question has to do with the propriety of his role on a state housing development board and the sale of his property for a housing development in Mason County. That transaction is the subject of a federal investigation.
Perdue's challenger, Republican Mike Hall, believes he can do better with the state's investments, promises to run the office ethically and has nearly 18 years of legislative experience. His occupation as a retirement and investment adviser also fits well with the job. He, as well as Morrisey in the attorney general's race, have the backing of the state's Chamber of Commerce.
Both Hall and Morrisey warrant voters' support.