For those still amazed that one of the hottest primary races is for agriculture commissioner, here's another first: There's now a Republican attack ad aimed at the presumptive front-runner in the Democratic primary.
The (so far) Internet-only spot by the West Virginia Federation of Young Republicans is titled "Walt Helmick: Fake Farmer Puts Himself First."
Unlike a lot of attack ads the spot is very funny, raising issues that Helmick 1. "isn't a real farmer," 2. "doesn't even own a truck," and 3. "lives in a ritzy Charleston condo." (during legislative sessions, anyway ...)
Of course, judging by their financial disclosures filed with the state Ethics Commission, none of the five Democratic candidates meet the (now ruled archaic) requirement that agriculture be the primary source of income for commissioner candidates.
Under the section of the disclosure form to disclose sources of more than 20 percent of gross income, the forms list a variety of businesses and industries but, tellingly, there are no categories for agriculture or farming.
Bob Tabb did check "recreation," writing in "agri-tourism," as well as "retail," with the notation, "farm and nursery." The deputy agriculture commissioner also checked "state government" in that category.
Helmick, assistant agriculture commissioner Steve Miller, and retired Agriculture Commission field supervisor Joseph Messineo each checked only "state government," while Sally Shepherd marked none of the categories.
Shepherd, who listed "self-employed farmer" in the employment section of the form, also listed no sources of income over $1,000.
Under sources of income over $1,000, Messineo cited his Red Oak Farm in Spencer, while Tabb cited his Town and Country Nursery business. Helmick listed Allegheny Lodge Enterprises, which includes his natural spring water bottling company.
Miller listed three rental properties in Fort Ashby and Cumberland, Md., and a self-storage business, but no agriculture-related income more than $1,000.
Got a call from a reader who was worked up because he couldn't find a parking space at Stonewall Jackson Resort because they were all occupied by SUVs and pickup trucks with Division of Highways' plates.
That, I learned, was because of the annual two-day conference for Highways' maintenance supervisors and engineers held at the state resort park in Lewis County.
Highways spent $41,226 for last year's conference, which ranked it a distant 20th among state agencies' spending at Stonewall Resort.