A West Virginia labor leader raises an intriguing ethics question: Is it dishonest for a politician to win office with backing from his party's regulars -- then switch to the opposite party in mid-term?
AFL-CIO official Tim Millne demanded that Evan Jenkins of Huntington resign from the state Senate. Jenkins was elected as a Democrat from Cabell and Wayne counties in 2010. But last July, Jenkins switched to Republican and announced he will oppose longtime Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., for Congress. He has no opponent in the May 13 primary, so he's sure to be the GOP challenger against Rahall in November.
Since the senator's four-year term in the Legislature lasts until 2015, he gets a free ride: He can continue serving in the Senate while running for the U.S. House.
In a letter, Millne said Jenkins should stop this double role as senator and candidate, and quit the Legislature. The labor leader complained that "you changed your party affiliation before the end of your term. This is not fair to the good Democrats of Cabell and Wayne counties.... It is ethically wrong to sit in a seat where Democratic voters elected you to represent their values."
Will Jenkins resign? Will he apologize to the Cabell-Wayne Democrats who elected him? Or will nothing happen, and West Virginia politics-as-usual follow its typical sordid course?
A right-wing front group for the billionaire Koch brothers is running smear ads against Rahall. As the Gazette's Paul Nyden revealed, Jenkins now denounces President Obama's Affordable Care Act -- even though he previously supported most of its provisions while a Democratic state legislator.
The new Republican's campaign website says: "Evan knows that Obamacare will cost trillions, raise premiums and kill jobs." Yet Jenkins, who happens to be executive director of the West Virginia State Medical Association, backed most ACA breakthroughs when he was a Democrat.
Universal health care should be a human right for everyone. Did Jenkins support that principle as a Democrat, and oppose it now that he's a Republican?
Labor leader Millne is correct: The 2014 campaign raises some troubling ethics questions.