EDITORIAL: GOP's Maloney Looks Increasingly Like a Long Shot

HNN Staff
EDITORIAL:  GOP's Maloney Looks Increasingly Like a Long Shot

On one hand, we must thank GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Maloney for getting into the political arena, investing a good portion of his own money, and giving West Virginia a choice in the upcoming race this fall against Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin.  On the other hand, political observers on both sides of the aisle are questioning just what kind of choice Maloney is really giving West Virginia this year--and no state needs viable political choices as much as West Virginia.

Let's review:  West Virginia is in the economic quagmire it's in due to a hollowed-out, medieval political system that has less to do with putting the state's interests forward and much more to do with rewarding the cronies of the political leaders at the statehouse.  Whether rank and file Democrats want to admit it or not, these political leaders have been, by and large, Democrats.

State Senator Earl Ray Tomblin (D-Logan) embodies West Virginia's problem.  After three decades of Tomblin's "leadership" in the State Senate, where are we as a state?  Can anyone suggest with a straight face that the pride of Logan County has done anything to turn around the statehouse's tradition for rewarding cronies or restructuring the government's approach to the state's economy?

Then there's Tomblin's efforts to advance elements, dark elements, of the gambling industry, including the new racinos statewide and the slot machine legalization in countless local "hotspots" statewide.  This is Earl Ray.  This is West Virginia's future under Tomblin:  casino gambling, more slot machines, and that chief indicator of a failing economy:  more pawn shops.

However, Republican Bill Maloney has all the look of a sheep being led to the slaughter if his summertime efforts to increase his name recognition and advance some key, popular issues is any indication.   We saw in the primary that Maloney hammered his personal experience in Chile more than the plight of West Virginians out of work.  Yes, an economic revival based on private sector business principles was mentioned by Maloney here and there.  But the dominant theme was his humanitarian effort in Chile, which while admirable, is easily forgotten by West Virginians across the political spectrum as they contemplate how to make a living in chronically depressed West Virginia.

Maloney has made a few appearances since the primary election and has been trying to raise funds so that he doesn't have to pay for his entire fall campaign.  That's understandable--nobody likes to underwrite an entire campaign.  But in order for anyone to take his candidacy seriously against a veteran pol like Tomblin, Maloney has to demonstrate that his campaign is resonating with a critical mass of voters.  This summer was Maloney's one chance to seize the platform and run with the open field that the generally quiet Tomblin has given him.

With every good news item that Tomblin promotes as the state's Acting Governor, Maloney's general absence from the state scene lessens his chances.  A short while ago, Tomblin was able to boast of a considerable overage in state revenues.  Just this past week, Tomblin could tout the state's increased bond rating.  We can expect to see occasional economic development stories with local media showing Tomblin shaking hands with glad local government and business officials.  Tomblin doesn't miss these obvious opportunities.  He knows how the game is played.

Maloney has to generate excitement on his own, and no, he can't rely solely on the state's oftentimes sluggish media to amplify his message. Rather, through a combination of paid advertising, social media, and grassroots efforts at the local level, he has to appear to be everywhere all the time, preaching his private-sector economic gospel in a way that the average West Virginian can appreciate.

Short of that, by the time Labor Day comes around, this election will be over. The medieval state government with its tradition of cronyism will continue unabated, for the next year or next five years.  While we can't lay all of this at Bill Maloney's feet, we can say that he carries on his shoulders the hope of reform that many West Virginians know is needed.

Don't blow it, Bill.

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