Earl Ray Tomblin wants to be governor, but he needs to explain or clarify some remarks that he wrote several years ago.
Tomblin wrote the foreword to the book West Virginia Tough Boys: Vote Buying, Fist Fighting, and a President Named JFK. The book, written by F. Keith Davis, details the career of several Southern West Virginia Democratic bosses, including Raymond Chafin. One scene in the book, originally described in Chafin's own autobiography, and later by former Gaston Caperton official Dr. Allen Loughry in his own book, portrays a $35,000 payoff from the Kennedy campaign. That money was meant to secure support of the bosses away from Humphreys. One of the bosses, Bus Perry, feared at the time that this act would put him back into state prison. Dr. Loughry, in Don't Buy Another Vote, I Won't Pay For a Landslide claims that the 1960 campaign started the era of big money political corruption in West Virginia.
Well, what does Tomblin say about this? Does he condemn the fixing of a presidential primary in the strongest possible terms? Does he call their actions disreputable and criminal, as Loughry does?
This is the response of the man who would be governor:
"As we reflect on our role in U. S. Presidential History and our own unique historical perspective, some might have legitimate reason to question the means, but no one can question the positive and outstanding contribution West Virginia has made in this venue of government and political development."
This was his one negative comment about the crimes detailed in this book. To him, this seems to be a matter of interpretation. Tomblin also seems to imply that the end of a Kennedy victory over Hubert Humphreys was worth subverting an honest vote. This shows an amazing lack of concern for democratic process and rule of law. So long as you get something good, it's O. K. to commit a slew of crimes to make it happen. And what of West Virginia's role? This travesty helped to cement our reputation for generations as a Hazzard County-like place where politics is shaped in back rooms with a wink, a nod, and an exchange of cash. Tomblin's foreward doesn't celebrate just one Boss Hogg, but a whole gaggle of them.
The man who would be governor needs to address this issue immediately. Perhaps he did not write this little piece with enough thought, or maybe he did not want to offend his friends and neighbors. In any event, West Virginia voters need to know where he stands on election corruption in the past, present, and future. If this foreword is any indication of where he truly stands, Tomblin cannot be trusted even with the office he has held for so long, much less that of governor.
This is not a hit piece. Lord knows that I have written enough over the years that if I ran for major office, my opponents would definitely ask me to defend some of the blogs and columns the I have produced over the years. Writings are a window into the mind of the author. Voters have grown aware of this passage in the past few weeks and have started talking all over the state. Tomblin should take the opportunity to explain why he wrote in this fashion and to clarify his position on the history of Southern West Virginia political fraud and corruption.