To see the Mountain Messenger’s coverage of a recent Greenbrier County Democratic rally in order to compare and contrast candidates, click here.
By Bobby Bordelon
Despite facing a downpour, the Greenbrier County Republican Executive Committee opened their second of three election headquarters on Friday, August 14, in downtown Lewisburg. A crowd, holding umbrellas and standing under tents, heard speeches from several local and statewide Republican candidates, each looking to drum up support for one another.
“We need to thank Barry Bruce for giving us this building for our GOP headquarters in Lewisburg,” said Republican Executive Committee Chair Ben Anderson. “It was extremely generous of him and what I love about it [is] the chairman of the Greenbrier County Democratic Party is right up the street. He looks down everyday at a Trump/Pence 2020 sign. That’s what I’m talking about. … Another point – there is a counselor who works downstairs, this might just drum up a little business for him. Someone walks inside, sees that Donald Trump cut out, if they’re a liberal, it might just trigger them and they might need some counseling.”
The new Lewisburg headquarters is not the only location for the Greenbrier County Republican party. On August 10, a White Sulphur Springs location was opened, with several speakers, including Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, in attendance. In addition, a Rainelle location will open on August 22, with Congresswomen Carol Miller and Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt in attendance.
“The GOP will have HQ locations in White Sulphur (beside of Sue Spicer State Farm Insurance on Main), Lewisburg (street level of Barry Bruce & Associates on Randolph), and Rainelle (across from Maytag appliance store on Main),” Anderson explained. “White Sulphur location will be open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Lewisburg location … will be open Monday through Saturday 10 to 6. Finally, Rainelle location .. will then be open Wednesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. To 2 p.m. … They will be manned by the 12 members of the executive committee and a base of over 50 volunteers from both the Greenbrier County Republican Club and the new Greenbrier Young Conservatives United.”
One notable speaker was Secretary of State Mac Warner, who highlighted the absentee ballot application process for eligible voters online.
“Everyone is eligible to vote absentee if you want, if you have a COVID-19 concern,” said Warner. “It’s on a new app, we turned it on two days ago and we’ve already had 9,000 people register for an absentee ballot. It’s simple, you go to govotewv.com … or call the county clerk … or go vote in person! Zero cases of COVID-19 in the primary. … The mail is not ideal, it has problems, they probably automated this instead of sending the applications out. The clerks couldn’t read people’s handwriting, we lost 500 applications in the post office in Charleston – we did find them, but it was delayed. I don’t want those problems, that’s why were not mailing them out in the general [election], but you go online, request your ballot consistent with state law, everyone can vote absentee.”
Each of the candidates addressed the crowd, explaining a bit of who they were and why they were running for the position they’re vying for. For each of those candidates, see below for links to their website and a portion of each of their speeches:
“With my experience, and what I want to do as far as professionalism and productivity and accountability and so on,” said Beard. “I’m up against a good candidate. Bruce Sloan is a good guy. I like Bruce. But the department’s not getting ran the way it needs to be ran. … From the outside looking in for the past several administrations in magistrate, you can see what’s not getting done. There are concerns I have, the work ethic, the professionalism, all that stuff needs addressed to make it a better department for all of Greenbrier County, not just the cities.”
“In the 20 years I’ve been active in the Republican club and the executive committee, you just had to be there 20 years ago to see the difference between then [and now],” said Via. “… I think it’s also about keeping our culture. There is one party running on the national level that loves and wants to celebrate this country and another that says they want to transform it. Why would you want to transform America? Why on Earth would you want to transform the beacon and light of the world that it always has been. … Elections always come down to turn out. There are differences in issues, there are differences in policy concerns, differences in personality, but mathematics rules the day. We are with 120 votes with the Democrats on a person to person ratio in this county and the independents usually vote with us. … Go vote, get everybody to go vote.”
“When I first ran for Greenbrier County Commission back in 2002, it was pretty lonely going to meet the candidates,” said Rose. “There were no gatherings like this at all. I was out there flying by myself. … I appreciate everybody’s support and the people at the courthouse. I hope we continue forward, keep the courthouse, keep the state, and hopefully take over some of these positions. Our current house members and our current senator, you couldn’t get more liberal than they are. They are about the most liberal people you’ll meet. I’m not saying they’re not good people as just day to day people but they are liberal. They’re liberal in their votes, they’re liberal in their thinking, and we need to change that.”
“This is a Republican Party I’ve never seen before,” said Bruce. “Look at the numbers. We’re going to do this year. We have to do it for our state and country. We cannot do it ourselves. You have a slate of candidates that I think are fantastic. … We’ve got to win for us, our liberty is at sake, you understand that? This is a war. We have people that want to bring drag queens in to read to elementary school [kids], we have people [who want] to raise our minimum wage to $15. That’s not right. I pledge to you that I will enforce and follow the United States Constitution, the West Virginia Constitutions, and the pre-amble to each of those says one nation under God and one state under God, and I believe that.”
“We are losing these kids – they’re graduating and they’re going to other states to find employment. Why?” said Longacre. “That should not be the case. We need to create incentives that bring manufacturing to West Virginia. … I live in Greenbrier County, I work in Monroe County, there’s plenty of wide open spaces in Monroe County for business, but it’s not coming. Why? We need to be more business friendly, we need to create incentives so businesses want to come here to keep these kids in our state. … I don’t have the luxury of reaching out to the West Virginia Teacher’s Association. They don’t like me very much. Why? Not because I don’t like education but because I want more education, not less. I want teacher-focused reforms, but not before student-focused reforms.”
“You look at what this county has done and what this state has done over the past several years, its tremendous,” said Woodrum. “When I was in my 20s, .. I would’ve never thought I could see a time that I could run from Summers County and be competitive and I’m going to go on and win this 10th Senatorial District. This morning I had a phone call from a member of the House of Delegates telling me how critical it is that I win this race. To maintain control of the Senate, I need to win this race.”
“Look at this! We’re talking candidates, we’re talking volunteers,” Warner said. “… What a group of people coming out on a rainy Friday evening to open up the GOP headquarters. And the Grand Old Party it is, and when I hear about the numbers coming together, I just want to keep that momentum going. … Keep up what you’re doing.” In addition, Warner noted his efforts to analysis the voter rolls and remove certain names from them, saying “we have taken off, since I’ve been in office, 195,000 names. Not people, these are folks that have died, moved on, felons that shouldn’t have been on the database. When you hear about the apathy of the West Virginia voters, it’s not apathy, it was the apathy of my predecessor (Natalie Tennant) who didn’t take the names off with the county clerks. There are just as many or more inactives, another 200,000 names are gonna come off in February.” He also pushed for down-ballot voting; “We had 30,000 [in West Virginia] that voted for Donald Trump then walked out of the precinct. They didn’t vote down ballot. Think about that, if we can get them to vote down ballot, we can get Republicans elected.”
Although not a Greenbrier County representative, Caleb Hanna, 44th District in the House of Delegates, called for support for the Republican candidates lined up for Greenbrier County. Hanna called for voters to remove Cindy Lavender-Bowe, citing an anti-college campus gun carry bill. He also attacked compromising Republicans and members of the LGBTQ community, particularly drag queens and transgender women, two different groups of people.
“We’ve got to get out in 2020 and elect conservative Republicans,” said Hanna. “Hence that word, conservative Republicans. We have a lot of people in Charleston who claim to be Republicans but they aren’t really conservatives. They don’t stand for the second amendment. They want to do what Barry was talking about early, they want to let men who dress up like women come into our schools and read to our kids. They want to go ahead and support Obama’s policies and have men and women in the same bathrooms. It’s ridiculous.”
On June 14, the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed LGBTQ rights; the 6-3 opinion of Bostock v. Clayton County, GA, places both sexual orientation and gender identity under protections of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Act outlaws “particular employment [practices] that causes a disparate impact on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
Next, Anderson looks to the opening of the Rainelle location and is staffing and suppling White Sulphur Springs and Lewisburg.
“This was an extremely successful, inspiring event that served as our kickoff for the election season with almost 100 individuals in attendance. Percentage-wise, Greenbrier County has become more ‘red’ in voter registration in the past 4 years than any other county in the state of West Virginia. In 2016, Democrats led in registration by 5,000 voters. Today the gap is only 140 voters. We plan to utilize our HQ locations to fulfill our mission of flipping Greenbrier County red and securing victory for our local and state candidates. The energy of this event was electric and will serve as a springboard to further successes on Election Day for the local GOP.”