West Virginia state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey told Newsmax that while he is "very seriously considering" running for governor in 2016, his major focus has been on what Mountain State residents call "Obama's War on Coal."
"The attorneys general of the states are the last line of defense when it comes to the fight against the encroaching power of the federal government," said the Republican, who astonished pundits in 2012 by defeating his state's five-term attorney general.
Along with leading 11 other states in court against the Obama administration's new proposal for the regulation of carbon emissions, Morrisey was one of a handful of states' top legal officers who submitted briefs in "King v. Burwell." This is the case now before the Supreme Court that will determine the fate of the subsidies provision that is pivotal to Obamacare.
A onetime counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Morrisey emphasized the imperative behind his suit dealing with the EPA.
"The casualties of the administration’s destructive, anti-coal policies are clear," he told us, noting a recent announcement that as many as 1,800 coal mining jobs may be lost in West Virginia as a result of the new EPA regulations.
"Unfortunately, this is the tip of the iceberg, since for every direct coal mining job lost, up to seven other jobs are lost," Morrisey said.
Morrisey, who has also testified against the carbon emissions standards before a Senate subcommittee chaired by West Virginia's Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, denounced the president's new regulations as "regulatory overreach and zealous advocacy by an administration with a callous disregard for poverty."
Republican politics put the statewide spotlight on Morrisey last week. With the announcement that three-term Rep. David McKinley would not seek the GOP nomination for governor next year, many conservative activists now say that it is imperative that Morrisey — the lone Republican in statewide office — join the race.
"He is a bold conservative leader, hard worker and he kept his campaign promises — namely, to clean out corruption in the attorney general's office," State Delegate Eric Householder told Newsmax. "He’d make a great governor."
Morrisey told Newsmax: "I’m very seriously considering what office to pursue in 2016. I'll continue to evaluate the situation and ultimately do what's in the best interests of the people of our state."
Shortly before we spoke to Morrisey, state Senate President Bill Cole told reporters he would run in the Republican primary for governor. With incumbent Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin term-limited, betting is strong that the Democratic nominee will be billionaire Jim Justice, whose vast holdings include the storied Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.
Much like fellow Republican Attorneys General Alan Wilson of South Carolina, Adam Laxalt of Nevada, and Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma, Morrisey is a hybrid of conservative crusader and reformer. In 2012, then-candidate Morrisey blasted his opponent and Democratic Attorney General Darrell McGraw for hiring outside counsel on state litigation as favors to friends and then using settlement money to benefit his re-election.
Morrisey has reformed both practices since taking office.
An old political quip holds that "the letters A.G. in attorney general really stand for 'Aspiring Governor.'" With $550,000 in his campaign kitty, Morrisey could easily run for governor or seek re-election to his present office. That is the major question in West Virginia politics now.
"Patrick is a gentleman who understands politics," State GOP Vice Chairman Lynn Staton told us. "He did exactly what he said he'd do as attorney general, and he would also be a good governor. He's also very thoughtful and he won't rush into any decision."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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