HNN Staff

Anyone who has observe

d West Virginia politics for any length of time knows that the strangest of bedfellows can emerge in the name of political expediency. However, the West Virginia Farm Bureau's recent endorsement of Betty Ireland for the Republican Party's nomination for Governor this year must come as a great surprise to many rank and file Farm Bureau members across the state.

Query:  What has Betty Ireland ever done for farm families in West Virginia?

We're not saying that Ireland wouldn't like to have done something for those families.However, she has little or no experience with them at all, since her previous public service was as Secretary of State, not Agriculture Commissioner.  Moreover, Ireland has lived and worked most of her life in the capital city of Charleston, mingling with Jackson and Kelly attorneys and the like.  Ireland is the choice of Charleston-based lobbyists and their legislative friends, who have little to do with West Virginia's rural counties.

With as broad a field of candidates as the Republicans are offering this year, some of these candidates having deep roots in rural West Virginia, you would think that the Farm Bureau would want to help advance one of them to their party's nomination.

What this endorsement demonstrates is a conscious shift in philosophy and tactics. In former times, this statewide group, with thousands of members, would fearlessly advocate conservative social and economic policies, as well as candidates.  The farm families of West Virginia could depend on the Farm Bureau to advocate their issues and beliefs, no matter what.

Unfortunately, those days seem to be gone with the Ireland endorsement.  Apparently, Charlie Wilfong and Company have decided to go along and get along with their fellow lobbyists in Charleston when it comes to the Ireland pick.

Sadly, the Farm Bureau has become just like any other Charleston lobbying group, taking orders from the powers that be, rather than serving a constructive role as the conscience of rural West Virginia.

We predict the Farm Bureau leadership will regret that they selected Charleston style over the other Republican candidates' substance.  For one thing, their reputation as an advocate for conservative issues has taken a serious hit.  Any Republican candidate, like Ireland, who has to spend ten minutes at each campaign stop assuring a puzzled audience that she really is conservative is not what we expect from the Farm Bureau.

As the old folk saying goes, "Experience is a hard teacher. But you learn."