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Viewig backs McCuskey in speech

The Associated Press

(June 23) CHARLESTON -- Employment Programs Commissioner William Vieweg on Monday dismissed his public opposition to a Democratic state Supreme Court candidate as a "one-liner" he thought no one would take interest in.

But a union representative and the Democratic Party chairman said the remarks were inappropriate.

Vieweg gave a luncheon speech during a June 3 training seminar of the West Virginia Self-Insurers' Association. He urged opposition to Democrat Warren McGraw, although he did not endorse incumbent Republican Justice John McCuskey.

"I said we have a balanced administration. We have a balanced Legislature. And it's important we maintain a balance on the court," Vieweg said. "I did mention I thought that McGraw would not maintain that balance.

"It was a one-liner," Vieweg said. "It was simply an afterthought. Frankly, I was surprised people would question it."

"Vieweg is supposed to oversee the workers compensation system impartially. He should not engage in partisan politics in his role as commissioner," said Pauline Hanson of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation. She attended the speech.

Vieweg said his speech talked about the progress the Underwood administration has made improving management of the Workers Compensation Division.

Hanson said the point of his speech was to urge the audience to support McCuskey.

Vieweg said he has tried not to make the Workers Compensation Division political.

In a letter to the Charleston Daily Mail published June 12, Vieweg criticized Democratic Party Co-Chairman Steve White for saying Underwood administration workers compensation policies discriminate against small business owners.

White's comments were a "reckless infusion of partisanship in a system that cannot withstand the pressure and confusion that politics inevitably inflict."

"The man needs to practice what he preaches and stop the double-talk," White said.

Underwood spokesman Dan Page said Vieweg is entitled to his opinion of the Supreme Court race. Underwood supports McCuskey, whom he appointed to the court.

McCuskey declined to comment about Vieweg's remark.

McGraw did not immediately return a call to his office.

The self-insurers' association represents about 150 companies who pay workers compensation benefits directly to employers and do not pay workers compensation premiums.