MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — One only had to spend a little time at the Berkeley County Republican banquet in April to sense the energy that is fueling West Virginia Republicans here. There was an overflow crowd at the ballroom of the Holiday Inn in Martinsburg, speakers were wildly cheered and it took more than an hour for emcee Gary Kelley to introduce the GOP candidates — ranging from U.S. Senate hopeful John Raese and Rep. Shelly Moore Capito to candidates for the state legislature and local municipal offices.
With anger raging over what speaker after speaker denounced as “Obama’s War on Coal,” Mountaineer State Republicans feel certain they will put their state’s five electoral votes in Mitt Romney’s corner and sweep offices from the state to local levels.
But the candidate who easily drew the biggest cheers of the evening was Harper’s Ferry lawyer Patrick Morrisey, likely GOP nominee for state attorney general. A former staffer for the House Energy Committee, stalwart conservative Morrissey is fast becoming a political “rock star” because he has an excellent chance of unseating West Virginia’s best known Democrat: Darrell McGraw, former state supreme court justice (1976-92) and the state’s top lawman for the past 20 years.
Time and events have caught up with the Democrat local wags dubbed the “eternal general.” Long criticized for assigning state legal cases to political allies and distributing trinkets from his office at taxpayers’ expense, McGraw has most recently come under intense fire for what critics say is a nonchalant response to the Obama administration’s rulings against the state’s coal industry — in Morrisey’s words, “doing nothing while the Environmental Protection Agency runs roughshod over our top industry.”
“I really didn’t intend to run for anything this year,” Morrisey told Human Events over breakfast the morning after the banquet, “but then [McGraw] would not join the other state attorneys general who were suing over Obamacare.” So Citizen Morrisey participated on a team of private lawyers that challenged the Affordable Health Care Act. The case is now before the Supreme Court.
In contrast to the incumbent he denounces as an “opponent of freedom,” Morrisey vows to be an activist conservative attorney general in the mold of Virginia’s Ken Cuccinelli and Alan Wilson of South Carolina. Because of his strong identification with opposition to Obamacare and the “war on coal,” Morrisey is attracting legions of volunteers among fellow conservatives.
One promise he repeatedly makes is to “end the practice of handing out trinkets from the attorney general’s office, save taxpayers’ money, and redirect resources to create an Office of Federalism and Freedom. That office will identify and challenge unconstitutional laws — and West Virginians will know what it is to have a believer in freedom and limited government as attorney general.”