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Few surprised by Wise's decision not to seek re-election

August 13, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Gov. Bob Wise's announcement Tuesday that he will not seek re-election surprised few if any politicos in the Eastern Panhandle, who now are left to ponder who will assume the seat in 2004.

"It's an unfortunate day for the Democratic party but it's a party that's been resilient," said John Fink, chairman of Berkeley County's Democratic Executive Committee. "This is just one more hurdle we'll overcome."

Citing the needs to spend more time with his wife and two children and to effectively complete his current term, Wise issued a statement announcing that he will not pursue a second term.

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"He's made a decision in the best interest of his family and probably the people of West Virginia. I think it'll be an interesting election," U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who said she'll seek another term in Congress, said as she visited with entrepreneurs in Martinsburg Tuesday.

Without his wife and family behind him, Wise will not find success in future endeavors, Fink said.

"When your back's to the wall, that's all you have, your family," he said. "In the end, I believe he'll determine that he made the right decision."

The move also was a political one that Fink said he believes will increase the Democratic Party's chance of retaining the governorship.

As he watched television news coverage of Wise's announcement, Jerry Mays said he has always believed 2004 will be a good year for Republican candidates. Mays is chairman of the Berkeley County Republican Executive Committee.

"I hope the stars are aligned for the Republicans," Mays said, adding that he believes the state will remain in the doldrums until a two-party system truly takes effect.

Wise's announcement comes three months after he admitted he had not been faithful to his wife. Although Mays said he was surprised at Wise's extramarital affair, he said he was not surprised the governor is not seeking another term.

"This probably has to be the thing he has to do," Mays said.

Asked if Wise's decision is good or bad for Republican candidates seeking the governorship, Mays was quiet for a moment before saying, "Bad. We would rather have faced Wise either unscarred or scarred because he just didn't provide the leadership the state needs right now."

State Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, said Wise probably considered the fact that, if he sought re-election, his infidelity would have been rehashed again and again.

"I think what he has done is the right choice in the sense that he wants to concentrate on his family. (He's) putting family over politics," Unger said.

Fink, Mays and Unger agreed that the focus now needs to shift from Wise to the candidates seeking the governorship.

As of Friday, four Democrats and four Republicans had filed pre-candidacy papers with the secretary of state's office, according to The Associated Press.

None of the candidates are from the Eastern Panhandle. Although politicians realize voters in this area play an important part in determining who will be elected to state or Congressional offices, Fink and Mays said the sheer distance between the area and Charleston is a large hurdle.

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