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Panhandle mulls governor's future

May 13, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - After Gov. Bob Wise admitted Monday that he "was not faithful" to his wife and family, residents and officials in the Eastern Panhandle were left pondering the fate of the governor's office and the political scene.

Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, said the matter is a personal one between the governor and his family, and should not affect his re-election bid.

"This is his business," Doyle said. "In my view, what has been reported so far has no effect whatsoever on the operation of West Virginia's state government. I think this is absolutely irrelevant to any issue of public policy."

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Wise has not announced whether he planned to seek re-election. Doyle said he will support Wise regardless.

Doyle said most people are intelligent enough to look at Wise's political record, not a personal indiscretion, when deciding for whom to vote.

People approached at Martinsburg Mall seemed to agree with Doyle's theory.

"This country seems to have an obsession with sexual misadventure, so to speak," said Marty Miller, 63. "I don't think that should be an impediment to his ability to serve as governor."

More people than are willing to admit it probably have had a similar marriage problem, said Miller, of Martinsburg.

"We ought to stay out of it," Miller said.

Helen Spitler, 57, also of Martinsburg, said she voted for Wise before and would vote for him again.

"I realize it happens, sometimes, even with the best of us," Spitler said.

In a statement issued Monday, Wise said, "Several weeks ago, I had to do the toughest thing I have ever done - tell my family I had not lived up to their trust, expectation and love. I was not faithful to my family. I knew it was wrong and now I must take full responsibility."

The matter came to light when the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail reported Phillip Frye, 40, of Hugheston, W.Va., said his divorce case in Kanawha County Family Court includes allegations that Wise had an affair with his wife, Angela Mascia-Frye.

Angela Mascia-Frye, 35, oversees European operations for the West Virginia Development Office.

But a lawyer for the man said nearly every comment attributed to his client in the article was a "fabrication" or taken out of context. The lawyer, Joe Cometti of Charleston, said his client "never said anything about the governor with regard to his wife."

The editor of the Charleston Daily Mail said she stood behind the story.

"The governor is absolutely not going to resign. This statement does not affect the governor's re-election plans," said press secretary Amy Shuler Goodwin.

Jerry Mays, chairman of the Berkeley County Republican Executive Committee, said that while he disagreed with the way Wise has run the state, he never would have expected such a personal situation.

"It strikes me as being out of character for him. I am shocked," Mays said. "I think this pretty much seals his fate as far as re-election goes. If the allegations are true, it would surprise me if he'd even run."

John Fink, chairman of the county's Democratic Executive Committee, said he, too, was surprised.

"What a catastrophe. It's really unfortunate. It came to me as a big shock," Fink said.

Although Wise must consider his political future, Fink said he believes the governor first must turn his attention toward his family.

Wise, a Democrat elected in 2000, has two children with his wife, Sandy. They have been married since 1984.

"The governor right now needs to circle the wagons and really prioritize what's important," Fink said.

As for Wise seeking re-election, "We just need to make sure we've got our best candidate to run" for governor, Fink said. "It remains to be seen if it's going to be Bob Wise."

Because the Eastern Panhandle is so far from Charleston, any effect on local candidates should be minimal, Fink said.

"We're just going to depend on our candidates and the good work they do," he said.

Disappointment and embarrassment were some of the feelings being expressed among people in Jefferson County.

Ken Molenda of Charles Town, W.Va., said a candidate's moral standing is important to him when he votes because elected office is an honorable position that carries a certain amount of responsibility.

"They have to serve as a role model for their constituents," Molenda said.

For Suzan Kinn, it brought back memories of the sex scandals of President Clinton. The Martinsburg resident said she is starting to believe that "morality and politics can't go together" in the United States.

Others said it was nobody's business but Wise's and should not affect his ability to do his job.

"It doesn't matter to me," said Dorothy Jenkins of Kearneysville, W.Va.

Staff writer Dave McMillion contributed to this story.

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