Senator Blair is battered, but returns to legislative arena

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senator Craig Blair made a dramatic reappearance at the Legislature today, rolling past other senators at a press conference in a scooter and crashing into a wooden banister.

“It’s great to have Craig here,” Senate President Mitch Carmichael said as senators applauded.

Blair was glad to be present as well. He credited staff and fellow legislators with stepping up.

“I serve all kinds of roles around here and everybody knows it, so I’ll be going all over doing different things,” Blair said. “But I’m not as mobile and I’m not driving — nor should I be after this grand entrance I had. But it’ll be all right.”

Blair, R-Berkeley, isn’t in the best of shape right now.

He was in a serious traffic accident on Jan. 4, while he was in Charleston preparing for the legislative session. He had been out running an errand and was starting to return to the Capitol when another vehicle turned in front of his. Trying to avoid T-boning the other vehicle, Blair turned and ran into a concrete barrier, totaling his Ford F150.

Blair was hospitalized and had surgery on his hip joint, which was damaged in the wreck. He had to miss the first few days of the legislative session but returned on Monday.

He took part in a brief floor session, attended the press conference but did not speak. Blair attended an afternoon Senate Finance meeting but did not lead the meeting. He sat at a table normally used by staff, rather than at an elevated table where senators usually sit.

When Blair got a round of applause from his seated position, he said “that’s because I’m down here.”

Blair acknowledged that he is in pain and experiences more fatigue than usual. He hopes to improve over the course of the 60-day session.

“Craig Blair has overcome all odds to be here today,” Carmichael said. “He’s in a lot of pain, but he’s here because he’s a tough guy and he does great work for his constituents and the people of West Virginia.”

Senator Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, had also missed the first few days of the session. He faces a misdemeanor prostitution charge in Marshall County with a trial set for Feb. 28.

Multiple people said Maroney was at the Capitol on Monday, although he did not attend the Senate’s floor session or the press conference for the Senate’s Republican majority to describe its goals.

He is the chairman of the Senate’s Health and Human Resources Committee, which would meet on Tuesday.

Carmichael acknowledged Maroney’s return along with Blair’s.

“Absolutely. We need a full contingent of senators that represent their constituents,” Carmichael said.

Story by Brad McElhinny