Anyone who thought the Republican majority in West Virginia was just a passing whim surely don’t know West Virginians. When our voters get disenchanted with a political party, their disenchantment turns to pure venom. It works both ways. It doesn’t matter if the candidate is a cousin twice removed on your mother AND father’s side, right now if don’t have an R by your name you might as well be dog meat.
The tide has turned. Back when I ran for office in 1990, we were over 80% Democratic. The only race was in the primary and if you had a Republican challenger it was rare. Last election that majority became the minority.
PARTY REGISTRATION IN HANCOCK COUNTY (AUG. 22)
Dem. – 6,603 Rep. – 7461 Mountain – 26 Libertarian – 167
No Party Affiliation – 3,961 Other 475 TOTAL 18,663
I’ve seen the pendulum swing both ways. For a long time starting with FDR, the Democrats were assured of victory in the Mountain State. They used to say that in the Southern Coal Fields people had two pictures hanging in their homes – Christ and FDR. As the years would pass, John F. Kennedy would be added to the wall although it really should have been LBJ as well for he was the president who got the Poverty program through Congress that aided so many West Virginians.
Their was structure in Democratic politics. Dick Wriht was chairman for many years and he determined who was allowed to run for office. There were cars to pick up voters and deliver them to the pools……thee were daily wheels…..there were stolen ballot boxes……there was no financial reporting…..and people driving cars were paid in cash..
I have a Hancock County Courier with the election results on the front page during WW II. It was a FDR led the ticket and from the White House to the State House and to Courthouse, it was a Democratic landslid with one exception. There was a picture of a curly headed sailor who had the distinction of being the only Republican to win in the entire State “in a campaign conducted by his wife.” He was on a ship bound for Okinawha when he won. It was a compelling story and my Mom would drag my four-year-old sister along who would hand the voter a card with my Dad’s picture in a sailor’s hat. It worked.
He would continue to win for 36 years, I truly don’t know how he pulled it off, but I do know the advice he gave me when four years before I ran for the House of Delegates I announced my intention to pursue political office.
“Change your registration to Democrat,” Dad said. “You can’t win as a Republican, I was an aberration,” Did I argue? Did I argue policy or claim allegiance to Arch Moore? Nope. I knew the man knew what he was talking about so I not only hightailed it up to the Courthouse to change my registration, I got myself elected to the Democratic Executive Committee.
Conservatism is cool and even registered democrats in office have recognized t hat they can’t do their constituents any good. If they don’t get elected. County Commissioner Jeff Davis, who has has a long track record of being elected as a Democrat, has changed his registration Republican. Voters saw Clay District Commissioner Paul Cowey do the same when he got elected as a Democrat only to switch mid stream to Republican.
My question? Political pundits used to claim those who switch hurt their campaigns.. Welll, I maintain in order to get beat you have to have a Democratic Candidate running locally and I don’t hear any rumblings about any Democrats running. The key as I maintain it lies not only in the Dems and Reps staying solidly behind the candidate, but in the 3,961 no party affiliation. They are the key.
And, while Democrat or Republican registration really makes no difference in a County race, that’s not the case in Legislative races where you’re voting on issues like abortion, right-to-work, social programs for the needy. We need both Democrats and Republicans in those races.