By Lyra Bordelon
The Greenbrier County Republican Club turned out a crowd despite the rain for the Sunday, October 11, GOP Rally in the Valley. Held on the State Fair of West Virginia grounds, the mostly outdoor event featured an auction and a number of speakers, both candidates and incumbents alike.
“I’m feeling really great, this has been above and beyond my own expectations, especially with the rain,” said Republican Club President Ben Anderson. “People have really come out for this.”
Speakers ranged from the local to the national level, including County Commissioner Lowell Rose, House of Delegates candidates Barry Bruce and Todd Longacre, West Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt, state treasurer candidate Riley Moore, Secretary of State Mac Warner, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, Representative Carol Miller, and more. Anderson noted the speeches would be recorded and available online at https://www.facebook.com/GreenbrierGOP/.
As rally-goers entered the event, they had to pass a temperature check before they could come in, with masks and hand sanitizer available.
“This has been a culmination of at least three month’s work,” Anderson said. “We knew from the get go that this was going to be very difficult during a pandemic. … We have been handing people masks if they want one, checking all temperatures religiously. For the games we have been handing people disposable gloves. There is hand sanitizer everywhere, and all food is individually wrapped.”
Between local downtown protests against police brutality and other, local political rallies, some have questioned how these events are being held during the pandemic. Recently, President Donald Trump was hospitalized and treated for COVID-19 and, after what’s been labeled a “super-spreader” event at the White House, a number of senators have also tested positive for the virus. Anderson pointed to the Center for Disease Control guidelines.
“According to CDC guidelines, political rallies are exempt from a lot of the guidelines,” Anderson explained. “The health department and I have been discussing that and that’s allowed us to have an infinite number of individuals on the outside. … We wanted to make sure that our participants were safe as much as possible but we also wanted to exercise our first amendment rights as a political rally as the Greenbrier County Republican Party.”
During the recent Health Department meeting, several then-upcoming rallies were briefly discussed, including the Rally in the Valley.
“We did have some complaints and some concerns about [the Democrat and Republican political rallies.]” said Nikki Dolan, Director of Nursing/Administrator for the Greenbrier County Health Department. “They moved their activities outside, they’re going to provide masks. … The Republican rally was going to have a band, which is now allowed. I had to stop that at first but now it’ll be allowed.”
In addition, Anderson also celebrated the event for featuring one of the first concerts in Greenbrier County, if not West Virginia, since COVID-19 lockdowns began earlier this year. On Monday, October 5, Governor Jim Justice announced he would be lifting the ban on musical performances. The new order allowed music outside, with crowd sizes restricted to 25 percent of the venue’s full capacity or 250 individuals, whichever is less.
“We had live music earlier, we had a little concert,” Anderson said. “Governor Justice changed his executive order so live music is now allowed outside. This was technically the very first concert that has happened outside, that we know of at least, since they came back. The Thomas Taylor Band played.”