.... The West Virginia state legislature is deemed a part-time job, and legislators are currently paid only $20,000 in annual salary. But the perks can add up. Tomblin’s travel expenses over the past eleven years amount to $268,232.88. In 1998, he spent $74,000 to redecorate his office, and the Charleston Daily Mail detailed some of the expenses: “about $800 to re-letter doors at the Capitol with Tomblin’s name instead of Manchin’s, about $2,700 for pens and pencils with Tomblin’s name on them,more than $7,000 for letterhead stationery and envelopes, $469.93 for 8-by-10-inch photos of Tomblin.”
While accumulating enormous political power in the state, Tomblin has received exceptionally little public scrutiny....
.... As late as November 2010, on the eve of his debut as governor, local press called him “something of an enigma.” The local public radio station declared, “when he became acting governor earlier this month, the appointment left many West Virginians asking, ‘Who?’”
Tomblin’s Republican rival, Bill Maloney, could not be a starker contrast.
For starters, he has never served in any government job before. He founded North American Drillers in 1984, a company that started by drilling 24-inch support shafts for mines and expanded until it was capable of handling jobs as large as 18-foot-diameter shafts. Maloney sold his share of the company in 2006. During a family vacation in Cape May, N.J., last year, he heard details about the plight of the trapped Chilean miners; the Chilean government expected them to be rescued on a four-month timeline, and Maloney felt compelled to devise a plan that could work more quickly.
“I had known all along that I would end up in Chile, working to rescue those miners,” Maloney later recalled. “We arrived at the mine site in Chile on September 4, and timely planning and good fortune enabled us to begin drilling with DTH technology on September 5. Center Rock had fabricated the drilling equipment required for Plan B in days instead of the weeks usually required due to the specialized parts that are made per individual project requirements. . . . While the drillers lost and wore out numerous drill bits, they were still able to reach the underground mine workshop at 8:05 a.m. on October 9.”
Maloney describes his role in the Chilean-miner rescue in detail here.
One Republican watching the race closely from Washington offers a healthy serving of caution alongside his optimism:
“Outside of presidential politics, West Virginia is very much still a Democratic state. They have a two-to-one registration advantage, just elected a U.S. senator in a wave election year in 2010, control both state legislative chambers, etc. Having said that, the pressure is really on the Democrats to win this one. It’s already much closer than they ever anticipated, and it’d certainly sting to lose the governor’s office that Manchin gave up.”
If nothing else, Maloney has demonstrated striking momentum. A poll released by the Democratic Governors Association on August 25 showed Tomblin leading Maloney 47 percent to 33 percent. But by September 7, a Public Policy Polling survey showed a much narrower gap: 46 percent to 40 percent.
My state has so much riding on this election that Geraghty's last bit actually made me cry (pleease don't tell him):
.... While Maloney remains an underdog, he appears to be surging. A defeat of Tomblin might rank alongside Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts or Bob Turner’s recent win in New York’s ninth congressional district — as a sign that Obama’s stances and record have severely damaged the Democratic party’s image and reputation, even in its most secure political strongholds.
A Maloney win would also declare that the era of business as usual in West Virginia’s state government has finally come to an end.
Bill and Sharon Maloney and family. Photo by Thorney Lieberman.