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Justice maintains big lead among Republicans, Independents

Poll numbers show Governor Jim Justice holds a distinct advantage to win nomination by the Republican Party in the May Primary Election. The MetroNews West Virginia Poll released this week finds that if the election were held today, 56 percent would support Justice compared with 21 percent for Woody Thrasher and 11 percent for Mike Folk.

(Read more about the poll results here.)

Justice’s numbers have improved slightly since our August poll, when 53 percent of Republicans and Independents supported him.  Thrasher’s numbers have improved from 19 percent to 21 percent, while Folk has dropped a point.  However, with a margin of error of 4.4 percent, none of the changes are statistically significant.

It is clear, however, that the challengers have a long way to go to catch Justice by the May 12 election, just 150 days from today.

The poll shows Justice has a decided edge in name recognition.  Seventy-nine percent of likely voters have heard “a great deal” or “a lot” about Justice.  Just 18 percent know that much about Thrasher and only nine percent have significant familiarity with Folk.

Justice can generate news nearly every day because he’s the Governor.  Just showing up for an event is likely to get covered.  Thrasher and Folk have a much more difficult time generating earned media, which means they must spend even more money and time just to get their names out.

However, despite his lead Justice also has vulnerabilities.

Morning Consult lists Justice as among the least popular Governors in the country.  His approval rating is just 42 percent, while 47 percent disapprove of the job he is doing.  That’s a problem for the Justice campaign and it suggests that some of those who say today they would vote for Justice might be soft in their support.

Also, his primary opponents have not yet turned their full attention to Justice’s record.  The often-heard criticism of the Governor is that he does not live in Charleston and his companies don’t pay their bills.  You can bet his challengers will make sure voters hear that.

West Virginia voters don’t often turn out incumbent Governors, but it does happen.

In the 2000 election, incumbent Republican Governor Cecil Underwood lost his re-election bid to Democrat Bob Wise, 50 percent to 47 percent.  Incumbent Republican Governor Arch Moore was defeated by Democrat Gaston Caperton in 1988 59 percent to 41 percent.

Of course, those were General Elections, not primaries. It is even more difficult to convince members of a party to replace their candidate. But Justice is vulnerable here, too. Remember, Justice ran and was elected in 2016 as a Democrat and then he switched parties, so he is running for the nomination of the Republican Party for the first time.

Meanwhile, the race for the Democratic nomination for Governor is wide open.  We’ll reveal the MetroNews West Virginia Poll numbers in that race later this morning on Talkline and on our website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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State looks to receive additional millions in federal funds to battle opioid epidemic

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Attorneys Mike Stuart and Bill Powell will join a top U.S. Department of Justice official Friday morning to announce the awarding of nearly $38 million in grants to the state in connection with the opioid epidemic.

A news release announcing the 10 a.m. news conference said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan will join Stuart and Powell at the news conference to be held at the Byrd Federal Courthouse in Charleston. There will also be Justice administration officials on hand.

The state has already received millions of dollars in the battle against opioids.

A September announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services included $7.4 million for the state from the Centers for Disease Control and $28 million in grant funding. An October announcement said the state was getting a $6.5 million grant from the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Site-based Program (COAP). The program supports innovative ways to encourage substance abuse treatment and recovery.

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Buonamici shines in North Marion’s 72-63 win over Fairmont Senior

Greg Carey/WVMetroNews.com

Fairmont Senior’s Marley Washenitz looks to score in traffic against North Marion.

 

RACHEL, W.Va. — Taylor Buonamici has long been a key piece of North Marion’s girls basketball team.

However, as one of two seniors and the only one in the starting lineup, Buonamici is being asked to do more than usual this season.

Judging by her performance Thursday night against Fairmont Senior, it’ll be a smooth transition for the returning Class AA second-team all-state selection.

Buonamici scored a game-high 34 points, came down with nine rebounds and dished out seven assists to lead North Marion to a 72-63 victory over defending state champion Fairmont Senior.

“She did everything for us,” Huskies’ head coach Michael Parrish said. “She scored, rebounded and handled the ball when she had to. She played all five positions at some point. She plays hard and she’s a good weapon to have.”

The Polar Bears (3-1) put together their best stretch of the night in the opening quarter. Marley Washenitz scored 12 of her team-high 31 points and the Polar Bears closed with six unanswered to hold a 23-17 lead entering the second.

Washenitz, however, was forced to the bench with 6:19 to play in the opening half after picking up her third foul.

The Huskies (2-0) outscored FSHS, 17-8, over the remainder of the half to turn a three-point deficit into a 38-32 halftime lead.

Buonamici scored 12 of those 17 points, making all six of her free throw attempts in addition to three field goals. She consistently attacked the basket and helped North Marion turn its defense into offense as the Huskies forced 17 first-half turnovers.

“(Washenitz) is a really good player, so whenever she’s out of the game you have to take advantage of it as much as you can,” Buonamici said. “We saw gaps and we hit them and everyone was finishing. It was a good job by everyone all around.”

Washenitz was back on the floor to start the second half, but North Marion immediately went ahead by 13 after a 7-0 run to begin the third quarter. Kiley Brown connected on a 3-pointer before Buonamici produced back-to-back baskets to give the Huskies their biggest lead of the game at 45-32.

“We started to rebound in there and got some good outlet passes, which led to some easy baskets in transition,” Parrish said. “We wore them down a little bit by getting easy baskets. We were getting tired too, but when you’re getting easy baskets, you’re not having to work as hard.”

The Polar Bears stayed within 14 for the remainder of the quarter and cut the deficit to 10, before Buonamici’s runner gave the Huskies a 58-46 advantage entering the fourth.

North Marion’s Katlyn Carson opened the scoring in the fourth with a high post jumper and it was a sign of things to come. Carson came through with eight of her 11 points in the final period, including a pair of free throws followed by a leaner that stretched the advantage to 69-52.

But Washenitz answered with nine points during an 11-0 Polar Bears’ run, including a conventional three-point play with 1:09 to play that allowed the Polar Bears to trail by just six.

Fairmont Senior, however, never scored again and ultimately suffered its first loss in a contest between the AA state champion each of the last three years. The Huskies won the title in 2018, while the Polar Bears claimed it in 2017.

“We played hard the whole game and you have to play 32 minutes when you’re playing Fairmont Senior,” Parrish said. “I told them before the game we have to match their intensity if we want to have a chance to win.”

Brown and Karlie Denham each added eight points in the win, while Olivia Toland and Carson joined Buonamici with nine rebounds.

Washenitz and Kiara Cosby had 10 boards apiece in defeat, while Emily Starn scored 11 points to give the Polar Bears a second player in double figures.

Fairmont Senior made only 20-of-71 shots for 28 percent shooting and committed 25 turnovers.

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West Virginia cruises to 84-53 win against overmatched Austin Peay

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. —  In the wake of West Virginia’s turnover-filled first loss of the season at St. John’s last Saturday, coach Bob Huggins placed a heavy emphasis on better passing heading into the Mountaineers’ Thursday night game with Austin Peay.

Literally heavy.

The Mountaineers started a recent practice with a deflated ball to prevent them from falling into their pesky habit of dribbling too much.

“They had a ball with air later on. We just started practice with one [with no air],” Huggins said. “It had air, it just didn’t bounce.”

West Virginia had no problem bouncing the visiting Governors, moving the ball around far more crisply for an 84-53 win.

Most of the better passes came from some unexpected sources.

Mountaineer forwards Gabe Osabuohein (5), Derek Culver (3), Emmitt Matthews Jr. (2) and Oscar Tshiebwe (2) combined for 12 of West Virginia’s 21 assists as Huggins used the high post to his team’s advantage.

“We did the things [tonight] that we worked on [this week],” Huggins said. “We’ve been so stagnant. We wanted movement. That’s the first time we’ve really ran any kind of motion offense. We’ve been running sets trying to take advantage of our size, and we’ve played a lot of people who have basically packed it back in.

“I thought that part of it was good.”

Game Highlights

West Virginia found itself with plenty of easy shot opportunities, finishing 34 of 67 (50.7 percent) from the field. Matthews and Tshiebwe were the biggest beneficiaries, each finishing with double-doubles. Matthews had a team-high 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Tshiebwe added 14 points and 10 boards.

Matthews was effective no matter the distance, throwing down an alley-oop dunk to go along with hitting two of his three attempts from three-point range. For the season, Matthews has already matched last season’s total with 14 threes, but on 26 fewer shots.

“He shot it really well, just like in the first four or five games,” Huggins said. “Guys like him are much better when he can use his length, use his athleticism. He’s not the thickest, strongest guy. Guys like him need space to be able to move. I thought [the scheme] helped him out a lot.”

Austin Peay (4-5) did not shoot it very well. The Governors ended the game on a 6-0 run to finish 34.5 percent from the field (19 of 55), but their fate was already sealed after firing just 25 percent from the field in the first half. They also lacked the outside firepower to overcome their size disadvantage, finishing 1-for-14 from three-point range.

Austin Peay forward Terry Taylor, who came in averaging 22.5 points per game, scored a game-high 19.

West Virginia’s size advantage over the Governors was made obvious by the game’s rebounding margin, which ended up 50-28 in the Mountaineers’ favor. WVU also outscored Austin Peay 46-28 in the paint.

West Virginia committed five turnovers in the first six minutes, but settled down until another spate of turnovers late in the game brought them up to 14. The Mountaineers had 22 turnovers in their 70-68 loss at St. John’s on Saturday.

“At times, our ball security is not what it needs to be,” Huggins said. “Until we get better at that, we are going to struggle like we did early in the game. If you don’t turn it over and you get out in transition, then we are a different team.”

Bob Huggins postgame press conference

By the numbers

West Virginia struggled again at the free-throw line, finishing 10-for-16 (62.5 percent) from the charity stripe. However, the Mountaineers closed the game with a relative flourish, hitting five straight free throws after misfiring on six of their first 11 attempts. WVU finished the St. John’s game 5-for-12 from the line… Guard Sean McNeil added nine points and four rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench. West Virginia finished with a plus-20 point differential with McNeil on the floor. Only Tshiebwe fared better in that regard with a plus-22 in his 21 minutes

Next up

It’s a quick, NCAA tournament-like turnaround for West Virginia. The Mountaineers host Nicholls State on Saturday at 2 p.m.

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Former delegate announces campaign for 11th Senatorial District

ELKINS, W.Va. — A former Randolph County delegate is running for West Virginia Senate, almost four years after running for the same seat.

File

Former Delegate Denise Campbell

Denise Campbell, a Democrat, announced Thursday her campaign for the 11th Senatorial District. The district includes Nicholas, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Randolph, Upshur and Webster counties, as well as part of Grant County.

Campbell served three terms in the House of Delegates. She ran against Republican Sen. Greg Boso in the 2016 election. Boso, who was appointed to the seat in January 2015, won the contest.

Boso resigned from the seat this September because of a new job.Gov. Jim Justice appointed John Pitsenbarger in October to serve the remainder of Boso’s term.

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Kanawha-Charleston health board looking to ban vaping in public places

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Kanawha-Charleston Board of Health is moving forward with a proposal that would ban the use of electronic cigarettes and similar devices in public places.

The board on Thursday agreed to open a public comment period on the proposal, which would treat e-cigarettes like cigarettes and similar tobacco products under the county’s Clean Indoor Air Act. If the proposal is enacted, vaping would be prohibited in places such as restaurants, retail stores and most businesses.

The proposal comes amid increased scrutiny over vaping; according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been more than 2,400 cases of hospitalization and 52 deaths related to vaping. State Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, wants the state to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, writing a request to Gov. Jim Justice in November.

“Initially, when vaping became more popular, it was used as a means to deliver nicotine but supposed to be safer than cigarettes,” said Dr. Sherri Young, the executive director and health officer of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department. “What we’re finding over the past year is that there have been so many illnesses related to this, that is has become a public health crisis.”

Under the proposal, if someone is caught vaping in a place where prohibited, they will be asked to stop. County sanitary officials will additionally check if restaurants are removing patrons who vape as well as have signs asking people to not to vape in their businesses.

The public has until Jan. 16 to submit written comments to the board on the proposal. The body will hold a meeting that day to vote on the policy, and the public will be allowed to make comments before the vote.

Comments can be sent to the Kanawha-Charleston Board of Health, P.O. Box 927, Charleston, W.Va. 25323; or emailed to kanawhalhd@wv.gov.

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Globetrotters’ deep connection with West Virginia being celebrated

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There are deep West Virginia roots with the popular Harlem Globetrotters basketball team.

The basketball team’s theme music, “Sweet Georgia Brown,” known around the world for its sweet beat and whistling, was written by a West Virginia native and member of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.

The music was celebrated at the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame “Museum at the Mall” on Thursday with special guests Harlem Globetrotter’s Sweet Lu II and America’s Got Talent winner Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.

West Virginia Music Hall of Fame (WVMHoF) Executive Director Michael Lipton said that the state connection with the Globetrotters may not be known to many but discoveries by citizens are why he does what he does.

“That is one of the reasons why I started the Hall of Fame. It’s one of the most fun things to do,” Lipton told MetroNews.

One of the fun West Virginia music facts is that Jack Rollins from Mineral County wrote Frosty the Snowman, which is known all over the world.”

The Globetrotters adopted the song written by 2008 WVMHoF inductee Maceo Pinkard, a Bluefield native, in 1952. Pinkard, who died in 1962, was also inducted into the National Academy of Popular Music and Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984.

WVMHoF

Maceo Pinkard

“Sweet Georgia Brown” is one of the most recorded songs of all time. According to the WVMHoF, a shortlists of artists to cover the song are the Beatles, the Grateful Dead, Jimmy Smith, Nancy Sinatra, Ray Charles, Doc Watson, Sarah Vaughan, Django Reinhardt, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Chet Atkins, Charlie Parker, Glenn Miller, Bob Wills, Mel Torme, and Harry Connick.

The Carpenter Ants played “Sweet Georgia Brown,” on Thursday while Murphy Jr. joined in with whistling, and Sweet Lou II showed off his basketball skills.

Sweet Lou II, the son of legendary Globetrotter Sweet Lou Dunbar, is in the Kanawha Valley promoting the team’s Jan. 11 show in Charleston. The show is part of the team’s “Pushing the Limits Tour.”

“On the 11th, there is going to be a lot of high flying dunks, a lot of crowd interaction. It’s our “Pushing the Limits Tour” so we are going to be pushing the limits by attempting a few world records at each game.”

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2 Detroit men sentenced to life for Charleston West Side murder

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Nearly two years to the date of the West Side murder of a South Charleston man, two Detroit men have been sentenced to life in prison without mercy for their roles in the killing.

Kanawha County Circuit Judge Tera Salango handed down the sentences to Marcus Young, 20, and Jayrionte Thomas, 20, back-to-back Thursday. They both shot and killed Terrell Davenport, 27, at the West Side Market & Deli on 7th Avenue in Charleston on Dec. 14, 2017.

“On December 14, 2017, my family and I’s lives changed forever,” Latasshia Davenport, mother of Terrell said during the Victim Impact Statement at Young’s sentencing.

“Terrell was shot five times, two while he was already on the ground. I can’t tell you how I suffocated. I experienced nausea, deep sadness and unthinkable hurt that day.”

Davenport was shot inside the business after a verbal argument with Young, Thomas, and another man. Police said Davenport was shot inside the business by Thomas.

Surveillance video from the outside of the business was played during the trial and showed Davenport attempting to escape the gunfire but stumbling to the ground once outside of the front doors. That’s when Thomas ran away from the scene and Young follows, but Young was shown shooting Davenport three times while he is on the sidewalk, including twice in the head.

In early November, a 12-member jury found Young guilty of first-degree murder after a two-day trial. Thomas had previously pled guilty in the case and the prosecutors recommended mercy as part of the plea. Salango decided against that mercy.

With mercy, Thomas would have been eligible to have a hearing before the West Virginia Parole Board after he’s served 15 years in prison.

“I want to apologize to the Davenport family for his life being taken. I was young and I made a mistake,” Young said to the courtroom on Thursday.

In her victim impact statement at Young’s sentencing, Latasshia Davenport said she hoped for life without mercy because “we received life without Terrell that day.”

In front of a crowded courtroom full of Davenport’s family and friends, she went on to speak more directly to Young in an emotional statement about taking her firstborn son.

“You took my son’s life. What made you think you had that right? Perhaps one day, you will have time to process the magnitude of what you have done to a mother, a family and to a little boy who loved his dad.”

“I pray that God overlooks your faults and see your needs, whatever they may be. May God bless your mother is losing a son at this time. Take this time to learn something while you are in jail. Why don’t you try a relationship with God?”

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After unbeaten run to state title, new group of Highlanders step in at Webster County

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As just the third public school in the last eighteen seasons to claim a Class A boys basketball championship, Webster County authored one of the best stories of the 2018-2019 scholastic sports season. The small, rural school claimed their first state basketball title with a 47-40 win over Parkersburg Catholic in the championship game. The Highlanders finished the season with a 28-0 record.

“Ever since that championship team was small, they played together and they put the work in and it paid off for them,” said Webster County head coach Michael Gray.

“I still think about it every day. But we have to push on. We’ve got a bunch of young kids. We have been in the gym a lot this summer. We are trying to change the culture in Webster County. The fans and the players are buying in to everything we are doing.”

A new group of Highlanders will take the floor Friday when Webster plays their season opener at Calhoun County. All five starters and seven seniors have graduated. That group combined to score 77 of Webster’s 82 points per game last winter.

“I think this team we have coming up is a scrappy group. The practiced with that championship team last year. Some of them got a little taste of the state tournament. I think they are hungry.”

“We had about 32 kids tryout. The numbers are up a little bit. The last couple years we have had some kids play in the offseason, play some AAU and that helps.”

Five seniors will lead this year’s group. William Lewis and Levi Cochran were varsity players for the Highlanders last year.

“We shoot the ball really well. We’ve got some young kids that are coming on strong. We may change the way we play. We haven’t really found an identity yet. We are moving some kids around and mixing them up. They’ll play hard this year and we have to see what they can do.”

Despite fielding a younger team, Gray has built a regular season schedule that is similar to what the Highlanders faced last year.

“You are only going to get better if you play better teams. We picked up Shady Spring in Beckley. Shady is going to be a real good team. We have Greater Beckley Christian twice and Charleston Catholic twice. And the LKC is a strong conference. Our schedule is right where we want it to be.”

Gray is hopeful that last year’s unbeaten run to a state title will set a new standard in Webster County, allowing for sustained success in future years.

“It doesn’t matter where you are from. If you get out there and work, dreams will come true just like it did last year.”

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Man sentenced in accidental shooting case

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A man who accidentally shot his great niece in the head last year was sentenced to two years probation during a hearing Thursday in Monongalia County Magistrate Court.

Michael Nichols, who pleaded guilty in October to a misdemeanor charge, was also sentenced to perform 120 hours of community service and pay restitution in the amount of $4,600.

Chloey Neely, who was 8 at the time, was in a separate room from Nichols on July 20, 2018, when the gun went off while Nichols was showing it to his niece, Chloey’s mom. Nichols told the Dominion Post he was giving the gun to Chloey’s mom for protection. The shot went through a wall and struck Chloey behind the right ear. She was able to return to school in the fall of 2018.

Nichols was originally charged with the misdemeanor crime of being a person prohibited from possessing firearms.

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