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Gov. Wise's decision

August 14, 2003

Putting his family ahead of politics, West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise this week said he will not seek a second term in 2004. By dropping out now, Wise will spare the state a campaign that would have been based more on an extramarital affair he acknowledged three months ago than on his deeds in office.

Given the state of the nation's economy, Wise's accomplishments are considerable.

He convinced the legislature to legalize video-style poker machines in order to fund PROMISE, a state scholarship program that rewards those who maintain a "B" average in high school and score well on the ACT test.

He has dealt with the state's malpractice insurance crisis by convincing lawmakers to set up a physician-run mutual organization. That won't be the total solution, but it's a start.

Wise has also cut the state budget in a way that maintained the state's solid budget rating and allowed the state to finish the last budget year with a small surplus.

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The governor also took steps to deal with the state's workers' comp problem. Like the malpractice issue, one repair job isn't likely to fix the problem, but it is a first step.

In a story following Wise's announcement, Jerry Mays, chairman of the Berkeley County Republican Executive Committee, said that the GOP would rather have faced the incumbent than another Democrat, because Wise "just didn't provide the leadership the state needs now."

What sort of leadership does the state need? That's a question both parties need to answer in the campaign to come.

Whatever it means to him personally, Wise's decision is an acknowledgement that for West Virginia citizens, trust matters, and a man who lies to his wife might not be worthy of their trust.

When the topic came up earlier this month, we said that to run successfully, Wise would have to ask his wife and the voters to forgive him. Giving up his office when this term ends and returning to Washington, D.C., where his family lives now will be part of that process.

Wise's experience is a cautionary tale for anyone who believes that rules can be broken in secret and that indiscretions can remain hidden. Whether or not you're in the public eye, the truth is more likely to come out than not, a fact to remember when temptation presents itself.

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