The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

December 9, 2010

Ireland considers run for governor

BECKLEY — Betty Ireland is giving serious talk to becoming the second woman in 16 years to take a shot at winning a temporary home in the Governor’s Mansion.

To the former secretary of state, gender and a Republican disadvantage of better than 2-to-1 in voter registration are potential obstacles she feels can be overcome.

In one race already, Ireland settled both issues. That was in 2004 when she became the first woman since West Virginia became a state in 1863 to be elected to a statewide executive office.

“I’m contemplating it,” she said Wednesday of a possible run for governor in the 2012 election.

“I have not pulled that trigger yet. I’m gathering information and talking to people and meeting with my family and my advisers, and trying to best decide what’s best for me.”

Encouraging words have flowed from family and friends alike, but Ireland wants to weigh in on all reactions, including the ones that suggest she serve in another capacity and pass up the gubernatorial race.

“I’d like to hear both sides of the equation,” she said in an interview.

Back in 1996, the state nearly made history when Charlotte Pritt, a Democrat, ran a failed campaign against Republican Cecil Underwood.

“I don’t think that gender universally is as much a problem as it might have been decades ago,” she said.

“I certainly hope not. I don’t consider being a woman a handicap. When you’re a Republican in a 2-1 state, yes, that is a handicap.

Given the numbers, Ireland says, any Republican, or independent candidate for that matter, must produce a message that appeals to all West Virginians.

“I think West Virginians are ready to accept someone who brings to the table a package with as much experience as I have, and the dedication and energy as I have,” she said.

“If I decide to run and present a message that is a message of hope for the economy and job growth in West Virginia, I think people are willing to mark that ballot for that type of person, regardless of his or her party affiliation.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, has filed his papers with the secretary of state’s office, along with one other Democrat — Edwin Vanover of Bluefield.

And it appears fellow Democrats are about to follow suit — state Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, and Treasurer John Perdue. The majority party field could grow crowded in two years, provided others luminaries decide to join the fray.

For now, there are more Republicans with pre-candidacy papers on file. State Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, has taken the first step. Other Republicans on file are Joseph Oliverio II of Clarksburg, Scott “Cody” Regan of Salt Rock and Mark Sorsaia of Hurricane.

Phil Hudok of Huttonsville is the lone Constitution Party candidate.

“It’s an unusual situation,” Ireland said of the interest shown by both major parties.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. Those who are thinking of running had better be really, really sure that is something they think they can handle, something they think they should handle, and are fully prepared to meet the huge challenges as we move forward the next couple of years in West Virginia. It’s not a cakewalk.”

A University of Cincinnati graduate, Ireland taught in West Virginia’s public school system and became the first certified pension consultant, then served as executive director of the state’s Consolidated Retirement Board.

Upon leaving the secretary of state’s office a year ago, she joined Parkersburg-based Professional Services of America as senior vice president. Last May, she became vice president of business relationships for Mid-Atlantic Technical, Research & Innovation Center.

A major consideration for her, and any Republican for that matter, is working with the traditional Democrat-run Legislature, and in that realm, Ireland feels she can succeed.

“I know the leadership of the West Virginia House of Delegates and Senate,” she said.

“I worked with them before. I respect them. They’re bright, determined and dedicated public servants. I think they respect me because we’ve worked well. We worked well together when I ran the retirement board and certainly worked together when I was secretary of state.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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