Stephen Smith Back in Berkeley Springs Friday

Stephen Smith will be back in Berkeley Springs this Friday June 28 at 1 pm at the Ravenwood Pub. Smith is running for Governor of West Virginia as a Democrat.

“We’re doing more than 10,000 face-to-face, one-on-one conversations with West Virginians this summer,” Smith said. “My job – any candidate’s job – is not to speak for the people of West Virginia. My job is to be led by them. That’s why we’re starting with listening.”

Why would Smith want to run in the Democratic Party, a party that is now top heavy and controlled by corporations?

Smith said that sometimes the Democratic Party of West Virginia does represent the people of West Virginia.

“During the teacher’s strike, the Democratic Party chose the right side,” Smith told Russell Mokhiber, host of This Week in Morgan County. “There are moments when it does (represent the people of West Virginia). But we want a party that does so every time and without apology. And that means candidates not taking corporate money. But it also means changing who runs.”

Smith has put forth a pledge for candidates. The candidates pledge not to take corporate money, stand on the side of working people, do the work of town halls and face-to-face meetings with constituents and promise never to “punch down.”

“If you are willing to make those promises and run this kind of campaign, we will help,” Smith said. “You don’t have to do it by yourself.”

Forty-one candidates have already signed the Smith candidate pledge.

But as of right now, the party is still controlled by the corporate Democrats, led by Senator Joe Manchin. News outlets are reporting in recent months that Manchin is seriously considering a run for Governor.

What is Smith’s take on Manchin?

“Senator Manchin is the best retail politician in the country,” Smith said. “That being said, on a lot of the big issues of the day, we disagree. Time and again, he seeks out a position that will make both corporations and unions happy, as opposed to standing squarely on the side of working people. There have been moments over the years where we worked together. We worked very closely when he came out in favor of defending expanded Medicaid for West Virginians. We worked together to hold five major town halls across the state. But on the fundamental issues of standing on the side of poor and working people every time, we depart.”

Has Smith talked with Senator Manchin about the campaign?

“Only briefly,” Smith said.

What was the conversation like?

“This was months ago and while he was still in his campaign for Senate,” Smith said. “There is a good outcome within reach. We can have Senator Manchin stay in his term, finish his term and help make sure Democrats regain control of the Senate which has to happen if people want any kind of advance on labor rights, criminal justice, health care — you name it. Without a Democratic Senate, those things aren’t going to move. If he leaves the Senate, it’s almost impossible for that kind of change to happen.”

What are the odds Senator Manchin will run for Governor?

“I call it fifty/fifty,” Smith said. “But (even if Manchin gets in the race) it won’t change what we do.”

How does the campaign change if Manchin runs for Governor?

“He brings a lot of money into the campaign,” Smith said. “He has been in politics long enough and shown a willingness to take corporate cash, which we won’t. He can pump a bunch of money into the campaign. But people are more and more suspicious of that. In a Democratic primary, the Senator is vulnerable in part because there are a lot of Democrats who want to see him stay in the Senate. But also because there is a new generation of folks in West Virginia coming up and an older generation of former Democrats who are looking for a return to a working class Democratic politics.”

“If he enters the race, I think we will have a good chance of winning that race. But the best case scenario for him, for the party, for the people of West Virginia is for him to finish the term and throw his considerable weight to whoever emerges from the primary.”

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