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Gov. Wise and re-election

August 08, 2003

It's mid-August, just a few weeks before school begins and people all over West Virginia are trying to squeeze in their vacations before summer's end. Not much is going on, which may explain why a Republican press release is drawing as much attention as it is.

The release, from the Republican State Executive Committee, said Democratic Gov. Bob Wise had told his cabinet he wouldn't run for re-election in 2004.

Not so, Wise's press people said. Various cabinet members contacted by the Associated Press said they hadn't heard anything like that.

Nevertheless, GOP Party Chairman Kris Warner is sticking by his statement, citing a January release about the resignation of the Democrat Party chairman that the Wise forces denied, a release which turned out to be true.

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Wise's forces say that he will decide early in the fall.

A second term for the former congressman would seem to be a natural, given a number of positive achievements during his term.

He legalized video-poker machines to fund the PROMISE scholarship program, has handled the state's finances in a way that won praise from Standard & Poor's, one of the big New York bond rating agencies, and is working to bring the size of government in line with what the state can afford.

Good planks for a re-election platform, no doubt. But Wise's difficulties on the campaign trail will not stem so much from his official duties as from his personal life.

In May he acknowledged an extramarital affair, which gives Republicans an opportunity to make comparisons with Bill Clinton.

Can citizens trust a man who lied to his wife? Assuming his opponents aren't total buffoons, the answer likely will depend on whether he can acknowledge his error - to his wife and to the voters - and ask for their forgiveness.

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