Democrat speculates attorney general-elect eyeing US House seat
A top Democrat accused Republican Attorney General-elect Patrick Morrisey of preparing a U.S. House run before Morrisey begins his four-year term as the state's chief lawyer.
Derek Scarbro, state Democratic Party executive director, wondered aloud Wednesday about Morrisey's political intentions following Morrisey's eyebrow-raising press release about the federal fiscal cliff.
The attorney general-elect is apparently the only state official to issue such a statement. Morrisey does not take office until later this month.
Scarbro said he thinks dots connect to an eventual Morrisey run for Congress: Morrisey is outspoken on federal issues and has previously run for the U.S. House. That was more than a decade ago and in another state.
Morrisey, a New Jersey native, finished fourth in a field of four in New Jersey's 2000 Republican primary.
Morrisey, who worked in Washington through the beginning of this year's campaign, bought a house in this state's Eastern Panhandle in 2006. He lives in the 2nd Congressional District. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said last month she would vacate her seat in that district to run for U.S. Senate in 2014. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., currently occupies that Senate seat.
Rockefeller has yet to make clear if he will run for re-election.
Morrisey's successful campaign last year revolved around his charge that incumbent Democratic Attorney General Darrell McGraw did too little to challenge President Barack Obama and federal laws and regulations.
So, his statement on a federal issue is not unusual, but other major players in West Virginia - including Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin - did not release statements on the fiscal cliff this week. Tomblin's last written statement on the fiscal cliff came in early December when he and 10 other governors wrote letters to Washington officials urging them to find a "balanced solution" to the nation's budget.
By contrast, Morrisey issued a statement Tuesday afternoon denouncing a fiscal cliff deal and lacerating Washington lawmakers.
"After reading the legislation that passed the U.S. Senate, I am appalled that this agreement does not make any progress to reduce federal spending," Morrisey said in the statement, which ended with an explanation of why it was relevant for an attorney general to care about federal issues.
In response, Scarbro first made his thoughts public on Twitter on Wednesday morning using the website's shorthand style, "So with these #fiscalcliff statements is @MorriseyForAG running for Congress again?"
In a telephone interview shortly after that, Scarbro said Morrisey seems like he is focused on "other things" than West Virginia politics.
"It doesn't seem like he is very interested in serving the people of West Virginia," Scarbro said.
Morrisey adviser Scott Will said it was only right for Morrisey to talk about the fiscal cliff.
"Patrick's sole focus right now is on being a terrific attorney general, but as the only statewide Republican in the executive branch, it's important that he remain engaged with West Virginians on critical issues of the day," Will said in an emailed statement.
"Patrick feels strongly that we need to address our national debt crisis because the consequences of continuing to kick the can down the road will be devastating for West Virginia, the state budget and our business climate."
Morrisey has put together a large transition team and held a press conference shortly after the election to talk about his 17-point plan for changing the operation of the Attorney General's Office. He also held at least one in-state fundraiser to recoup the $1.4 million he spent on his own campaign.
State Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas said Morrisey is already "proving he can be a strong leader for fiscally conservative causes." Lucas said Morrisey's comments were "exciting and welcome."
"This is coming from their side," Lucas said, referring to Democratic allegation. "Patrick has never said anything about any office but attorney general, and he is already making sweeping changes in that office, and I look forward to his service in West Virginia."