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Phil Kabler: Perdue's troubles may draw candidates

CHARLESTON,W.Va. -- With Treasurer John Perdue's political reputation already seriously damaged after his May gubernatorial primary debacle, and further sullied by the ongoing federal investigation, 2012 candidates for the treasurer's office will soon be emerging.

One name that came up during legislative interim meetings last week said Friday he's not a candidate ... yet.

"I'm not committed to doing anything this time around," said Delegate Doug Reynolds, D-Wayne, a Huntington lawyer and son of businessman Marshall Reynolds.

Reynolds said he has contemplated running for statewide office, and has had discussions with political consultant Larry LaCorte about such a campaign, but has not made any commitments.

Reynolds pointed out he has three young children at home, which would make it difficult to hold a full-time position in state government in Charleston.

"I like the House," he said. "It's good to be able to turn it off after the session's over."

While he's not ruling anything out, Reynolds said, "As of now, I'm probably running for re-election to the House."

Also thought to be contemplating a run for treasurer is Sen. Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas. (Such a run became more appealing last week, now that his exile from being Senate Finance chairman is assured of continuing for at least 14 more months.)

Helmick has considered running for agriculture commissioner, with Gus Douglass announcing that he is retiring after this term.

However, that field is widening, with five hopefuls who've already filed pre-candidacy papers to date, including current deputy commissioner <B>Bob Tabb<P>, along with <B>Wayne Casto<P> of Martinsburg, <B>Joseph Messino<P> of Spencer, <B>Steve Miller<P> of Fort Ashby and <B>Mike Teets<P> of Lost River.

Another potential stumbling block for Helmick would be the requirements in state law for candidates for agriculture commissioner: Not only does one have to be a "practical farmer" (whatever that is) but must also have made agriculture "his chief business for a period of 10 years immediately preceding his election."

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Speaking of possible 2012 campaigns, I'm advised there is automated polling currently underway to gauge voters' interest in Mark Sorsaia running for attorney general. Sorsia, the Putnam County prosecutor, made a test-run for a statewide campaign this spring, running in the Republican gubernatorial special primary.

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Speaking of the Senate, the five offices of the Finance Committee suite are undergoing a facelift.

That includes $13,041 to W.Q. Watters Co. to repaint walls, ceilings and baseboards, and to refinish doors in all rooms, including the committee room. Currently, Capitol Business Interiors is installing hardwood workstations in the offices, at a cost of $45.081.

The old desks and furnishings in the Finance offices will be relocated to other Senate offices, Senate assistant clerk Lee Cassis said.

(Cassis succeeds longtime assistant clerk Rick Winnell, who retired a couple of months ago. Last week, the Senate recognized Winnell for his service, and his former boss, now-Gov.Earl Ray Tomblin, presented him with a Distinguished West Virginian award.)

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Regarding last week's item on Culture and History Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith's failure to intervene on the state's behalf to save Mount De Chantal from the wrecking ball, Michael Keeney of Blacksburg, Va., points out that one of the notable alumna from the school was the late Sen. Judith Herndon.

Herndon was one of the first women to rise to positions of power in the Legislature in the 1970s, and the Legislature's most prestigious internship program is named in her honor.

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No decisions yet on selecting a new vendor to operate the Capitol food court, but the presumptive front-runner found itself in a bit of hot water in a legislative audit released last week.

The audit of West Virginia University-Parkersburg found that the administrators of the community college had violated state law in 2009 when it awarded a food services contract to AVI Food Systems of Warren, Ohio.

The 10-year contract included an agreement by AVI to loan WVU-P $177,000 at 6 percent annual interest to cover costs to renovate the college's dining area. WVU-P's annual loan payments of $23,580 effectively wipe out any commissions that AVI would have paid to the college for operations of the food service facility for the life of the contract, the audit noted.

The issue is that the state constitution prohibits state agencies from entering into such loan arrangements, and the audit concludes that the attorney general's office would have disapproved the contract  -- had WVU-P actually submitted it for review, as required by law.

Ironically, legislative auditors determined that the entire cost of the renovations performed by AVI contractors totaled $165,237 -- or nearly $12,000 less than the amount of the loan.

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Finally, yes, the state Lottery's new headquarters in City Center West is as grand as one would expect a $34.9 million project to be. (One humorist suggested there should be a sign outside the office tower, stating, "Your gambling losses at work.")

Interestingly, the views from the Lottery executive offices in the 13th floor penthouse are not as spectacular as those from the floors below it, and Lottery Director John Musgrave said that's because the previous occupant had a fear of heights.

Musgrave said that City Center West was constructed, Ed Maier had the 13th floor set back from the edges of the office tower, like an island atop the 12th floor.

"When he looked out the window, he wanted to see ground below," Musgrave said.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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