Sunday, January 30, 2011

2012 (and 2011 in WV) Bring on the Political Bloggers!

“What Mr. Pawlenty does have is a beat reporter from Politico assigned to chronicle every utterance and movement of his non-campaign campaign: a 25-year-old named Kendra Marr…”

This morning’s Sunday New York Times front page caught the Politico in Stiletto’s eye: “Political Blogs Ready to Flood Campaign Trail

According to the article, a mass of young, political bloggers “want to establish themselves as the Blogs on the Bus.” The time has come when political bloggers equal the number of reporters on press release lists, and several insiders are dropping tips to bloggers before traditional media reporters. “The proliferation of political news sites has tested many traditional news outlets, which must grapple with whether to pursue the kind of micro-scoops and quick-hit articles that political sites specialize in, or ignore them and risk losing readers.”

While Politico, FiveThiryEight, RealClearPolitics, the Daily Kos, and more are placing more political bloggers on the ground with possible candidates and elected officials, West Virginia has a great group of political blogs you’ll want to follow:

As I’m sure I’ve left a couple out, so please share!

To combat this, it seems reporters are turning to Twitter to keep up. A sampling of West Virginia political reporters who you'll want to follow include:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kicking through the political glass ceiling, one stiletto at a time

With the official announcement of Betty Ireland running for governor in the 2011 special gubernatorial election just moments ago and with Secretary of State Natalie Tennant’s hat already in the ring, it seems only appropriate to discuss how female candidates will fair in upcoming West Virginia elections.

Yesterday, The Economist posted an article that piqued my interest, “The glass elevator in American politics.” Long has the belief been held that in the American political arena, women continually keep hitting their hair-sprayed heads against a glass ceiling, however, I’m happy to report that with the help of the spikes on our stilettos, we’re breaking through now more than ever.

Ronni Marie Abney of the University of California and Rolfe Daus Peterson of Mercyhurst College, studied down-ticket races in California and found “that voters are, if anything, biased in favor of women.”

“In the Democratic races, women fared much better than men. This might be expected, because voters seem to associate women with more 'liberal' issues…and Democratic primary voters tend to be liberal.” Regarding Republican primaries, voters tended to be more focused on issues like law and order and defense, which seem a little more “manly.” Even this did not put female candidates at any sort of disadvantage. According to the study, “A male name carried no advantage.”

That being said, we have two females running for West Virginia governor in 2011. One was the first female Secretary of State, and one is the current Secretary of State. How do you think both will fair against their male opposition and possibly against each other?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jobs and Incentives for a Young, Energetic Workforce in WV

When I wrote about Generation Charleston's Brains for Business bill, several people commented to me and tweeted “what about the jobs?” Well here’s an answer:

Today, WVONGA released a study from the WVU College of Business and Economics, Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) on the significant economic impact of Marcellus shale drilling.

But first, here’s a little background about West Virginia and natural gas. According to the report, from 1906 – 1917, West Virginia lead the nation in natural gas exploration and development. Total told and natural gas employment in West Virginia has been on the rise, yet it accounts for a very small percentage of our state’s total employment, barely 1.5% from 2001-2009.

The Marcellus shale stretches approximately 95,000 square miles from western Maryland, to eastern Ohio and southern New York, to West Virginia. Here at home, the Marcellus shale is between 0-75 feet thick, and in the northern part of the state over 100 feet thick.

According to the WVU report, for 2009, the economic activities associated with the Marcellus created roughly 7,600 jobs for West Virginians and paid $297.9 million in employee compensation. $14.5 million in state taxes came from Marcellus development in 2009.

Even better, it’s possible that Marcellus development created between 7,600 and 8,500 additional jobs here in West Virginia in 2010. By the year 2015, West Virginia could see 19,000 more jobs because of Marcellus development and related activities.

The most impressive thing to me about these numbers is that they’re conservative estimates! The economic benefits of royalty payments, exploration of the Marcellus, bonuses to landowners, pipeline and transportation of the natural gas extract from the Marcellus, and several other factors were not included in the above estimates. For a further look at the report, click here.

So now we’ve got jobs and incentives for a young, energetic workforce to come to West Virginia. Before I hear one more person shut either the Brains for Business bill or job creation through the Marcellus shale development down, what suggestions do you have? I’m happy to listen to complaints, but only if there is light at the end of your complaint tunnel.

West Virginia needs to take action now before its too late. Yes, our economy is more stable and our budget is in better shape than surrounding states, but that will not be the case if we do not continue taking progressive actions.

Consultant Mixes Politics and Fashion

Thanks so much to Rosalie Earl, Bill Lynch, and the Charleston Gazette for today's story!

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Under the Capitol dome, Cartney McCracken stands out in a sea of assorted legislators, state workers, lawyers and lobbyists. She's the only one wearing pearls, pink stiletto shoes and a black cocktail dress.

Against the shell-white marble, McCracken is a black reef of calm, and it's impossible not to wonder, "What is she doing here?"

The 26-year-old Charleston native is the social media strategist and client relations manager for Rainmaker Media Group, an advertising and image-consulting firm in Charleston. The firm has represented several politicians and interest groups, including the West Virginia Federation of Teachers and the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association.

The George Washington High School graduate is also a political analyst and blogger. Her "Politico in Stilettos" blog, which watches local and national political scenes with a fashionista sensibility, has its fans and its critics since she launched it last year. Still, it's as recognizable as her retro hairdo. The blog was recently cited on the New York Times blog "The Caucus" after the state Supreme Court ordered Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin to act as governor and set a date for a special election for governor.

"It's very exciting," McCracken said, meaning both the nod from The Times and the upcoming election. "I'm pretty sure Rainmaker is going to have a horse in that race.

She doesn't know whom yet, but she can hardly wait.

McCracken, whose seems to channel the spirit of Carrie Bradshaw, would like to become a press secretary and a communications director for a national officeholder.

"I'd love to work with campaigns in South America," she said, while acknowledging that parts of that continent are highly volatile. "I love the culture, especially Peru, and I never shy away from a challenge.

She'd have to work on her Spanish, though. She says she used to be fluent but has let it slip.

McCracken is passionate about many things, but her two greatest loves are fashion and politics. Fashion came first, probably because her mother, Lisa, is marketing director for Charleston Town Center Mall. Politics took root in the ninth grade.

"Politics is like golf," she said. "Once you start, you catch this fever for it, and I just never gave it up."

As a teenager, she was elected president of the Young Democrats at GW and worked as a volunteer for Joe Manchin when he served as secretary of state. She was devoted, and Steve McElroy, then executive director of the West Virginia State Democratic Party, asked her to work for them.

"But I had to go to school," she said, frowning.

In school, she studied both the pretty, manicured world of couture and the bare-knuckle world of politics. She graduated from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro with a degree in fashion marketing. She is working toward a master's in integrated marketing communications from West Virginia University, and is also considering law school.

"I have friends who have really been pushing me to go to law school," she said. "With a law degree, you can do so many things. It teaches you how to construct an effective argument."

McCracken recently took the LSAT, but she wasn't exceedingly pleased with the results. She says she might try again.

Law and marketing go together, she says.

"You can break politics down into two camps," she said. "There are the policy people and the campaign people. I'm pretty much on the campaign side of things -- crafting image, creating brands and finding ways to get the message out there."

After college, she took some time to figure out what she wanted to do. She worked at Ivor's Trunk, on Lee Street, for a while (and still works there as a model). She spent months networking, making new connections and renewing old acquaintances before she found work with Rainmaker Media Group.

"I networked my butt off for six months," she laughed.

Part of what she does with Rainmaker is to help clients reach customers or constituents online through the constantly evolving social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter. Neither is expensive or difficult to use, she says, but they're time-consuming.

"A lot of what we do is based on what the client wants. But we're looking for good press for them, basically."

Politics and fashion are not strange bedfellows, she says.

"Before John Kerry ran for president, what did he do?" she asked. "He got a haircut. He got a tan. He lost weight."

McCracken believes looking the part is almost as important as having the right platform -- at least if you want to get elected.

"Look what happened with Nixon and Kennedy," she said. "In their big television debate in 1960, John F. Kennedy looked like a president. Richard Nixon didn't."

Presenting the right image is even more important now, McCracken says, and she practices what she preaches. Partly, McCracken's stylish outfits and pink stilettos are meant to attract attention, get people looking and wondering.

She also likes wearing them.

Reach Bill Lynch at or 304-348-5195.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

3 Years, 3 Elections, 3 Governors?

This afternoon the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals denies petitioners arguments (which some claim is unconstitutional) and ordered Acting Governor Tomblin to set a date for the special election, stating "the period of time in which the duties of the governor shall be performed by [an acting governor] shall not exceed one year." Tomblin must set a special election by November 15th.

So we’re going to have another special election, and I think we all knew this would happen. Thus far, 2011 candidates include: Betty Ireland, Treasurer John Purdue, Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, Speaker of the House Rick Thompson, and Senate President Pro Tem Brooks McCabe, to name a few.

While several other names have been floating around, it seems both parties are searching for a dark horse to enter this race. Mike Stuart said he won’t run. Justice Robin Davis… thoughts anyone? (Although I hear she’s still on the fence.)

West Virginia’s biggest problems are economic/financial. So someone who is in one of those sectors could have some meat on the bones of a gubernatorial campaign. Other thoughts are someone with money. Who in West Virginia could fund a campaign or has enough ties to pull off a multi-million dollar campaign at the last minute? Thoughts anyone?

Rainmaker Finalist in 2011 Reed Awards!

It gives me great pleasure (and excited goose bumps) to announce that Rainmaker, Inc. has been nominated for eleven Reed Awards by Campaigns & Elections Magazine for the political work we produced during the 2010 campaign cycle. Moreover, we received a phone call indicating we need to be present when they give out the Reed Awards (meaning we won at least one)!

Campaign & Elections’ Politics magazine this week announced its finalists for the Reed Awards, an annual competition that honors the nation’s top political management and consulting firms. Rainmaker is a finalist in eleven categories, meaning our work was judged as being in the top three of each of these categories in the nation.

Campaigns & Elections’ Politics magazine is published 13 times a year and covers the strategies, techniques and personalities of modern politics. It is read by thousands of local, state and federal elected officials, candidates for office, party activists, issue campaigners, political consultants, campaign staffs, lobbyists, PAC directors, university professors, news reporters and numerous behind-the-scenes opinion makers. Find them on Twitter.

Our favorite piece, “Hootie Dropped the Ball” is up against Harry Reid’s campaign for the Toughest Radio Ad in the county. The other ten finalist categories include: Toughest Newspaper Ad, Newspaper-Local, County, Statehouse, or Judicial Newspaper Ad, Billboard Ad, Direct Mail- Democratic County, Local, or Judicial Candidate, Direct Mail- Democratic State Legislative Candidate, Direct Mail- Toughest Direct Mail Piece, Best Overall Bibliographical Mail, Most Daring and Successful Tactic, TV- Democratic Local, County or Judicial Candidate, and TV-Democratic State Legislative Candidate.

The national awards will be given out February 4th in Washington, DC at the Reed Awards Conference and Dinner. Needless to say, I’ll need yet another stellar pair of stilettos

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Avoiding WV’s brain drain: Brains for Business

Yesterday the Charleston Area Alliance hosted their annual Issues and Eggs breakfast, kicking off the first day of West Virginia’s 80th Legislative Session. Several gubernatorial hopefuls were in attendance, including Speaker Thompson, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, Treasurer John Perdue, Acting Senate President Jeff Kessler, Senator Brooks McCabe, and former Secretary of State Betty Ireland. Interesting to note that Acting Governor Tomblin was not in attendance, nor do I recall him being there last year.

The topic of discussion, just like last year, was the Brains for Business bill. For tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2011, this bill allows a credit against state income taxes for any eligible taxpayer for a portion of the interest paid on a qualified student loan by the taxpayer in the tax year that the taxpayer paid the interest on the qualified student loan. The tax credit is equal to the amount of money paid as interest on a qualified student loan in the tax year up to a maximum of $500.

A carryover is allowed for any amount the credit exceeds the taxpayers state income tax liability. No carry back to a prior taxable year is allowed. A tax credit is subject to recapture, elimination or reduction if it is determined by the Tax Commissioner that a taxpayer was not entitled to the credit claimed.

Only taxpayers under the age of 40 are eligible for the tax credit and the loan must have been used for the purposes of paying educational expenses or living expenses to obtain a degree from a regionally accredited post secondary institution in the United States or any accredited post secondary institution within West Virginia.

In addition to the tax credit, the bill also allows a deduction in the amount of $25,000 received from any source after December 31, 2011, by a taxpayer who has graduated from a higher education institution in a tax year, which is not more than two years prior to the year in which the taxpayer is filing. This deduction is limited to two years, and is only applicable to those graduating from a regionally accredited post secondary institution in the United States or any accredited post secondary institution within West Virginia.

According to Julie Cyphers, one of Generation Charleston’s two new co-chairs, "It is important to create an atmosphere in West Virginia where businesses know that the young talent they need to thrive has a significant incentive to remain in West Virginia."

Hopefully the bill will be introduced next week, but we will not know for sure until tomorrow. It was introduced last year and did not pass, but several elected officials are much more optimistic about its success during this legislative session (and for what it’s worth, this Politico in Stilettos wholeheartedly endorses this bill).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Special Election, State of the State, and Stilettos

Today at 2pm, the State Supreme Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in favor of and opposing a special gubernatorial election in 2011. It’s no secret that Acting Governor Tomblin believes that current laws “clearly provide” that the election to replace Manchin as governor should be in 2012, according to an article in the West Virginia Record. Tomblin also stated his position at his most recent press conference last week, where he called for a Lt. Governor position. Speaker Thompson, who would run against potential gubernatorial candidate Tomblin, believes that waiting until 2012 to elect Manchin’s successor is too late. Tomblin, Thompson, and Secretary of State (and potential gubernatorial candidate) Natalie Tennant have all filed election briefs.

Interestingly enough, Robin Davis recused herself from this case. Rumors are running wild that she may run against Manchin if he decides to run for re-election for United States Senate, or would run for governor. However, I’m hearing she most likely will not run for governor.

So what will the Supreme Court do? I bet they throw the case back down to the legislature, where the House will send an elections bill over to the Senate. If the Senate does not pass the bill, it’s also rumored that the House will not pass any other bills until a special gubernatorial election bill is passed and signed off on by the Acting Governor.

Needless to say, tomorrow’s State of the State will be nothing short of intensely interesting… and I’ve got a stellar pair of stilettos for the occasion.

Friday, January 7, 2011

WV PoliTweeps: Constituent Connections

With the West Virginia Legislature going into session next week, I thought it only appropriate to post the Twitter names for several of West Virginia’s elected officials:

US Senate: Jay Rockefeller
Joe Manchin: @JoeManchinWV

US House: Shelley Moore Capito: @Rep Shelley
Nick Joe Rahall: @Rahall2010
David McKinley: @mckinley4cong

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin:

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant: @NatalieTennant

Attorney General Darrell McGraw: @AGWestV

WV Legislature: @wvlegislature

WV Senate: @wvsenate
Jeff Kessler: @JeffKessler4Gov
Brooks McCabe: @BrooksMcCabeWV
Truman Chafin: @Senator_Chafin
Erik Wells: @Erik_Wells
Mike Green: @SenatorGreen
Bob Beach: @WVsenatorelect

WV House: @wvhouse
Rick Thompson @RT4WV
Tim Miley: @timothymiley
Meshea Poore: @MesheaforHouse
Doug Skaff: @dougskaff
Josh Stowers: @Josh_Stowers
Tom Azinger: @TomAzinger
Ryan Ferns: @RyanFernsWV
Doug Reynolds: @dougreynolds16
Troy Andes: @TroyAndes
Nancy Guthrie: @guthrien4me
Kelli Sobonya: @KelliSobonya
Amanda Pason: @Pasdon4WVHouse
Randy Swartzmiller: @WV_Delegate
John Ellem: @DelegateEllem

Lawrence Messina (AP): @lmessina
Charleston Gazette: @wvgazette
Allison Knezevich: @aliknez
Phil Kabler:
Ken Ward: @Kenwardjr
Charleston Daily Mail: @charleywest
Ry Rivard: @ryrivard
Jared Hunt: @jaredwv
WV Watchdog: @WVWatchdog
Steven Adams: @stevenadamswv

Thursday, January 6, 2011

And Another Move on the Chess Board

After Senator Kessler announced he has enough votes to pass a rule change to create an Acting Senate President position, which he would fill, Acting Governor Tomblin announced today that he has formulated a working group of attorneys alongside his legal council to develop a Constitutional amendment making a Lt. Governor position.

Less than 72 hours ago, Tomblin met with Kessler and Thompson over lunch at the Governor’s Mansion. Tomblin gave little information about what issues he would tackle, putting soon-to-be Acting Senate President and the Speaker of the House at a small disadvantage.

The most appropriate question at today’s press conference, I felt, was in regard to why this was one of the first pieces of legislation we’ve heard about from Tomblin, why is creating this position so important when our state is facing many more important challenges, and doesn’t this just add more chaos?

Tomblin felt that this was of upmost importance. One has to wonder if Tomblin isn’t doing this to possibly find a position for one of his longtime Senate supporters, Senate Majority Leader, Truman Chafin, or Senate Finance Chair, Walt Helmick. Even if that’s not the case, does West Virginia need a Lt. Governor right now? If the amendment passes both the Senate and the House, it must be voted on by the people of West Virginia. While Tomblin was extremely vague in regard to a timeline, can we afford another special election?

Speaking of a special election, the first thing said by the Acting Governor was that he is looking forward to the oral arguments that will be presented to the Supreme Court next week dealing with the possibility of a special election. He made a point to state his person feelings regarding the timing of the next gubernatorial election: 2012.

According to Speaker Thompson's press release, "The Acting Governor’s proposal, which is similar to one initially proposed by Delegate John Doyle, is certainly worthy of consideration by members of the Legislature and their staffs. However, it has nothing to do with the constitutional crisis in which we now find ourselves. The solution is a new election this year, which the Constitution clearly envisions and the people absolutely deserve."

If we have a special election for governor in 2011, can we simultaneously vote for a person to hold that office as well as the proposed Constitutional amendment?