The area outside the West Virginia House of Delegates chamber was filled Saturday morning with t-shirts and buttons from various election campaigns throughout the state. Several people wore red bandanas, symbolic of the West Virginia miner strikes and the state’s rich labor history.
At the front of the room, behind the House doors, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stephen Smith and several others running for office this year shared their movement's progressive platform.
Smith is at the forefront of WV Can’t Wait, a political movement that features more than 70 candidates poised to race in elections all over the state. Those in the group have signed a pledge, promising not to accept corporate donations in their campaigns.
Not all of the candidates who have signed the pledge have also signed the platform Smith shared Saturday.
Many of those candidates were in Charleston Saturday morning to officially file with the Secretary of State’s office for office.
“We know that politicians don’t write history. Movements do,” Smith told rally attendees. “Politicians didn’t lead the mine wars. Politicians did not leave the teachers and school service personnel strike that happened, right here!”
Smith delivered his speech with several other candidates from the movement Saturday morning.
Brittney Barlett, a Buckhannon-area teacher running for the House of Delegates, promised to support teachers by raising their wages to match that of other states, and establishing curriculum that avoids too many standardized tests and “lets teachers teach.”
Rosemary Ketchum from Wheeling is running for City Council. She told rally attendees she wants to “expose sweetheart deals” that support large, out-of-state corporations over small, local businesses.
Tina Russell, who’s running for the House of Delegates in Mercer County, said she’ll establish a worker’s bill of rights, including paid family leave and collective bargaining for all state employees.
The entire presentation bounced around issues that have been in established politicians’ and Gov. Jim Justice’s recent addresses — economic development, population loss and substance use.
Smith himself elaborated on working class issues.
“Our workers are producing more than ever. West Virginians have never generated so much wealth, but that wealth does not stay here,” Smith said in his address. “The profits of our people working overtime heads out state and into the populous of executives.”
Candidates have until Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020 at midnight to file with the Secretary of State’s office for the upcoming election cycle.
The West Virginia primary election for party nominations and nonpartisan elections is May 12, 2020.
The general election is Nov. 3, 2020.
Correction: Brittney Barlett is a candidate for the West Virginia House of Delegates. An earlier version of this article misspelled her name.
Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.