LOGAN — An assembly of those claiming “West Virginia is Not for Sale” cheered on statewide Democrat candidates at a rally in Logan Saturday morning.
A large crowd gathered at the Logan Fire Department to pay tribute to U.S. Senate candidate Natalie Tennant, Congressional incumbent Nick Rahall and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. Rahall is a candidate for re-election and Tennant, the incumbent Secretary of State, is seeking the senate seat being vacated by long-serving Democrat Jay Rockefeller. Tomblin, who was elected to a second term as governor in 2012, is not running this year.
But it was Tomblin who set the theme for the day, assuring those on hand that “West Virginia has never been for sale and it isn’t going to for sale in 2014.” Democrats allege that Republican candidates are being funded by “Wall Street billionaires” and others in this year’s election. They specifically point to organizations funded by the Koch brothers as supplying financing for Republican congressional candidates.
Speaking of Republicans, several gathered near the fire hall on Dingess Street during the rally and held signs chastising Rahall. GOP partisans also stood inside the fire building when Democrats spoke and some heckled those at the podium. The common message from all was that the Democrats had supported President Barack Obama, who Republicans say has waged a war on coal since being elected in 2008. The recent announcement that as many as 1,100 more coal job losses may be felt in the Southern coalfields prompted many of the comments from GOP supporters.
A few staffers paid for by national and/or state Republican organizations were also on hand. Some videotaped the remarks while others conducted “interviews” with GOP opponents of Rahall and Obama. After the speaking ended, some miners gathered across Dingess Street in front of Rahall’s congressional headquarters for “interviews.” Republicans also followed Rahall across the street, asking him questions as the group moved toward the congressman’s campaign headquarters. One regular theme was, “Congressman, are you going to take time to talk to these coal miners or are you going behind closed doors?” Rahall ignored all of those questions.
At least one verbal confrontation between a Rahall supporter and one of the GOP miners occurred inside the building. While heated words were exchanged, the gathering was generally peaceful. Republicans continued to wave their signs all the way to Stratton Street as Tennant and the governor left the area.
Rahall was cordial and appeared to be unaffected by the opponents. At one point, a man in a truck pulled up and greeted the veteran congressman. Rahall waved and then walked to the truck to shake the man’s hand from Mingo County. That prompted the miners being interviewed to scream that the driver “must hate coal miners.”
The driver responded, “I AM a Mingo County coal miner” as Rahall smiled.
Among the elected officials on hand were State Senators Truman Chafin of Mingo, Erik Wells, husband of Tennant, from Kanawha and Ron Stollings of Boone; Logan Mayor Serafino Nolletti; Logan Sheriff Sonja Porter; Logan School Board member Phyllis Adkins; Boone Circuit Clerk Sue Ann Zickefoose; and Mingo Delegate Justin Marcum.
Also acknowledged by Tomblin were Tennant campaign chair General Allen Tackett; former Delegate Greg Butcher; and former Delegate Josh Stowers.
Tennant spoke of her upbringing on “the family farm.” She said she would lead West Virginia in an efficient and cooperative manner, just as she has served as secretary of state. “When you grow up in a household of nine people with one toilet, you learn to cooperate,” Tennant said to the roar of the crowd. She also mentioned that her husband, Senator Wells, has served in the military and she will “stand up for our military and our miners.”
The secretary of state said she has cut her office’s budget by $3 million and will work to “get more for less” as a senator. She also mentioned that she had “led the investigation that led to the indictments of three members of my own party for election fraud.” She was speaking there of the former Lincoln County sheriff, county clerk and county commissioner.
She described her Republican opponent, Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito as “stuck in Washington ways and Wall Street financing.” She added, “Congresswoman Capito is wrong for West Virginia. She does not share West Virginia values.”
Tennant concluded by saying internal polling shows, “when my message and hers get out, the difference in this race is one percent.” The crowd cheered wildly.
Rahall then spoke of his support for miners and southern West Virginia. Acknowledging that Tomblin had called a Rahall-supported project to upgrade Route 10 from Man to Logan, the congressman said, “I’ll continue the fight for the good people of Southern West Virginia.”
Rahall described the last week in congress as “the biggest three-ring circus I’ve ever seen. It was a Fox News nightmare.” The congressman was referring to lack of action by Republicans on various issues, including the immigration crisis, before congress adjourned for five weeks. “One Republican would lobby for something; then the Tea Party would interfere; then the establishment Republicans would take over. In the end, they accomplished almost nothing,” he said.
The day concluded with remarks by state Democrat Chairman Larry Puccio, who repeated the theme that Rahall’s seniority is a major plus for Southern West Virginia.