The Campaign Spot

Wide Crevasse Separates the Party Nominees in the Mountain State

Over on the home page, I take a look at the West Virginia gubernatorial election, where the contrast between the candidates cannot be overstated:

Manchin’s election required him to step down as governor, and state-senate president Earl Ray Tomblin became acting governor. (Tomblin retains his title as senate president but is not collecting his legislative salary or presiding over the chamber.)

Tomblin’s biography seems like a litany of clichés for powerful state lawmakers with shady ties in rural states. His mother, Freda Tomblin, owned a pair of lucrative dog tracks and his father, Earl Tomblin, was a sheriff twice convicted of election fraud and bribery. The more recent case, from 1989, featured the elder Tomblin paying a sheriff candidate $10,000 for a salaried position as a part-time investigator for the sheriff’s office that required little work.

Tomblin’s family owned Southern Amusement Co., a vending-machine outfit that distributed “gray” video-poker machines before the state legalized video lottery in 2001. The term “gray” meant that while they were purportedly not meant to be used for gambling, just for amusement, it was an open secret that many venue owners paid players. After becoming senate president in 1994, Earl Ray Tomblin left his position with the company, and his family sold the business the following year — to “Joe C. Ferrell, a former state delegate from Logan County who pleaded guilty to racketeering and tax charges in federal court last month.”

Around the time they sold Southern Amusement, the Tomblins expanded the dog-racing venture. The state legislature started setting aside money for dog racing in 1993 as an incentive for dog owners to breed greyhounds; the fund was created when Tomblin was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Since 1993, Tomblin Kennels; Tomblin’s mother, Freda; his brother, Carl Tomblin; and other members of the Tomblin family have received at least $4,194,014 in breeders’-fund bonus payments. One of Tomblin’s Democratic rivals, state treasurer John Perdue, tried to make the dog tracks an issue in the primary but got limited traction.

Meanwhile, the Republican nominee, Bill Maloney, was headed down to Chile to help rescue those trapped miners. Really.

Self-serving as it may seem, read the whole thing.