Charleston, W.Va. — POLITICS has a special flavor in West Virginia.
When previous governor Arch Moore was convicted in 1990, he joined a long list of former governors, state Senate presidents, and other officials who had gone to prison on corruption charges. So when political newcomer Gaston Caperton won the 1988 governor's race, promising to break from the politics of the past, it seemed a new day.
Governor Caperton and his administration remain untainted by corruption charges. But there are persistent reports that state employees are under political pressure to toe the line and support Caperton's reelection.
Before the state primary, a friend gave one state employee campaign material about a primary opponent. He put it on his desk. Days later, friends told him his job was in jeopardy. He says he tried to explain the situation to his supervisor. Later, he was let go. His status didn't allow him civil-service protection.
Last April, two state Division of Highways employees were suspended without pay after they wore "Charlotte Pritt for Governor" attire to work. When reporters looked into the matter, the administration ordered the men reinstated with back pay.
Caperton denies his administration is intimidating anybody. He says he pushed through the toughest ethics legislation in the country. He attributes the complaints to a few state employees disgruntled either because their candidate lost or because of low wages that generally prevail in the state government.