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The political left’s uphill battle in West Virginia

Joe Manchin’s choice to not run for re-election to the USA Senate has cleared the best way for different Democrats to get within the race. One of many entries is Zach Shrewsbury, a Marine Corps veteran who leans to the far left of the political spectrum.

Once I requested him on Talkline final Monday if he’s a socialist, he mentioned, “Positive, that’s completely fantastic with me.” Frankly, I admire Shrewsbury’s candor. At the least you realize the place he stands. A lot of his positions align with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who describes himself as a democratic socialist.

Sanders energized the left wing of the Democratic Celebration in West Virginia and throughout the nation in 2016. He captured the West Virginia Democratic Presidential Main with 51% of the vote, in contrast with simply 36% for Hillary Clinton.

Nevertheless, six of the eight Democratic Tremendous Delegates to the nationwide conference solid their lot with Clinton as a substitute of Sanders, and that angered these liberal Democrats who felt the state celebration was beholden to the established order.

Nevertheless, the left has not been capable of recreate the Sanders-level enthusiasm for state candidates. Listed here are a number of examples:

  • Within the 2020 U.S. Senate race, liberal Democrat Paula Jean Swearengin obtained solely 27% of the vote, whereas Republican Shelley Moore Capito claimed 70%.
  • The 2020 2nd District Congressional race noticed liberal Democrat Cathy Kunkel get 37%, in contrast with Republican incumbent Alex Mooney’s 63%.
  • Within the race for that 2nd District seat in 2022, liberal Democrat Barry Wendell obtained 34%, whereas Mooney collected 63%.
  • Liberal Democrat Steven Smith ran an aggressive grassroots marketing campaign for governor with vital small greenback contributions in 2020. He got here near Ben Salango, who gained the nomination with 39% of the vote. Smith completed second at 34% in a five-way race.

So, why can’t liberal Democrats win … and even get shut?  

The most important motive is that there should not sufficient voters who determine with the positions of the far left. Pew Analysis from this 12 months discovered that simply 16% of West Virginia adults say they’re liberal, whereas 47% say they’re conservative and 30% say they’re reasonable.

Candidates who self-identify as liberal, and even socialist within the case of Shrewsbury, typically begin out with a passionate group of supporters who’re dedicated to the positions of the left. Nevertheless, the historical past of latest elections demonstrates it’s arduous for these candidates to increase their base. They find yourself caught within the 30% vary.

That leaves the sector open for an additional, extra reasonable Democrat, to get within the race. One of many names being floated is Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott. His second time period ends in June 2024, and he’s prohibited from working for an additional time period.

Elliott advised me individuals have inspired him to run. He has made no last choice, however mentioned he’s giving it “full consideration.”

Possibly others are enthusiastic about getting within the race as properly, though any candidate severe about working is aware of will probably be an uphill battle.

Again to Shrewsbury. An introductory piece on his marketing campaign web site reads, “West Virginians all the time deserved higher than they obtained in Joe Manchin.” Clearly there’s a far-left wing of the Democratic Celebration in West Virginia that believes that and has by no means been pleased with Manchin’s extra reasonable positions.

However those self same voters should acknowledge that Manchin was capable of do one thing that no far-left candidate has been capable of do within the state in latest elections — win a race.

Hoppy Kercheval is a MetroNews anchor and the longtime host of “Talkline.” Contact him at [email protected].