West Virginia House of Delegates #MailGate Spawns Complaint

We are now in the third month of the ongoing #MailGate saga, where at-risk Democrat members of the West Virginia House of Delegates used their franking privileges to target likely Democrat voters.

One Delegate, however, really takes the cake.

According to the Charleston Daily Mail, Delegate Jeff Eldridge (D-Lincoln) mailed out more than 4,000 pieces of franking mail leading up to the Democrat primary. The Charleston Gazette reports that nearly half of those letters went to one corner of one county known more as a Republican stronghold.

Eldridge, who was defeated in in 2008 after trying to ban Barbie dolls in West Virginia, was re-elected in 2012. His district includes the bulk of Lincoln County and parts of Boone, Logan, and Putnam counties. He serves with Delegate Josh Barker (D-Boone).

Three candidates ran in the Democrat primary for House District 22 – Eldridge, Barker (appointed by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to replace outgoing Delegate Josh Stowers), and Gary McCallister. Eldridge lead the votes in the district with 1,676. McCallister defeated Barker by one vote.

In Putnam County, known as a Republican stronghold, Eldridge won with 216 votes compared with McCallister’s 184 votes and Barker’s 123 votes.

Perhaps Eldridge’s blanketing of that one section of Putnam County helped give him the edge?

Charleston Daily Mail reporter Dave Boucher reports that Eldridge covered that corner of Putnam County, which includes the city of Hurricane, with 4,942 letters. Eldridge provided the addresses, and House Clerk Gregory Gray’s staff mailed them out. No questions asked apparently.

Eldridge told Boucher that the mailings were not politically motivated. He was only informing people that portion of his district about Senate Bill 373, the bill crafted after the leak of chemicals into a multi-county water supply. There is only one problem with this explanation: it’s a load of crock.

“While a January leak into the Elk River did enter a West Virginia American Water Co. treatment facility and contaminate drinking water for 300,000 West Virginians, Hurricane has its own public service district…

…Other areas of Putnam County were included in the water advisory, but Eldridge’s district covers an area in the southern area of the county near Hurricane.

Thursday afternoon Eldridge said he didn’t know Hurricane had its own water system that was unaffected by the leak. He said he had been told they were affected, but didn’t remember who’d told him.”

It should be noted the letters also contained other issues, including those important to conservative voters. House Democrats are concerned about conservative-leaning registered Democrats voting for Republicans over Democrats in November, which could turn the keys of the House over to Republicans for the first time in three quarters of a century.

Democrats continue to say they did nothing wrong, that they have the right to communicate with constituents, and that the state’s congressional Republicans send out thousands more franking mail. All true, but those Republicans also don’t go out of their way to target likely voters. They also don’t get their addresses from Democrat operatives or a database paid for by the state Democrat Party.

“Eldridge said he received the mailing list he used for the official letters from fellow Lincoln County Democratic Delegate Joshua Barker. Barker, appointed in July 2013 by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to fill a vacated seat, said Thursday he gave the list to Eldridge.

Barker said he got the list after logging onto www.votebuilder.com, a website used to obtain mass amounts of addresses and phone numbers for voters, and purchasing it from ‘the Democrat party.’ He said he thought the information came from the state Democratic party.”

A complaint was filed against Eldridge with the West Virginia Ethics Commission, and a similar question about these kinds of mailings is being considered by the commission. Once the commission is reconstituted next week, it will be interesting to see if they enforce ethics on the Democrat Party or allow this kind of waste and corruption to continue.

For more on #MailGate see: