In Jefferson County, West Virginia, there are three House of Delegates districts — 65, 66 and 67.
In the 2018 election, two of those districts — 65 and 67 — flipped from Republican to Democrat.
One word — Rockwool.
The Danish multinational’s decision to put a heavy industrial facility across from an elementary school in the middle of a booming residential community upended politics in Jefferson County and the Eastern Panhandle.
In the 2018 election, Sammi Brown (D-65) defeated incumbent Jill Upson (R) 3,534 (53 percent) to 3,175 (47 percent).
And John Doyle (D-67) defeated incumbent Riley Moore 4,214 (56 percent) to 3,320 (44 percent).
Both Doyle and Brown stood with a growing anti-Rockwool resistance within the county.
In 2020, another Jefferson County House of Delegates race will revolve around Rockwool. This time, it’s because Rockwool has hired House Majority Whip Paul Espinosa (R-66).
In July, Rockwool hired Espinosa as a community affairs manager. Rockwool and Espinosa have refused to disclose Espinosa’s salary.
Aaron Hackett is running against Rockwool and Espinosa in 2020.
While registered voters in Jefferson County as a whole are evenly split between Republicans (13,065 (33 percent)), Democrats (12,702 (32 percent)) and Independents or third party (14,291 (35 percent)), in the 66th District, where Hackett will face off against Espinosa, there are slightly more Republicans — with Republicans having 37 percent of the registered voters (4,726), Democrats with 27 percent (3,464) and Independents and third party with 36 percent (4,630).
But Hackett says that in the 2020 election, the Rockwool issue will confound traditional politics.
“This is an issue that crosses party lines,” Hackett told This Week in Morgan County with Russell Mokhiber. “There are plenty of people who are Republican, Independent and Libertarian, Democrat — who oppose Rockwool. It’s not a partisan issue at all. It’s just people who are concerned about their community.”
Hackett says he agrees with Brown when she said that when Rockwool hired Espinosa, “a corporation bought a legislator.”
“He’s essentially being paid to be the face of this corporation in the community,” Hackett said. “He’s going to use the political network that he’s built over his almost eight years as a legislator to the benefit of Rockwool. And that is just immoral.”
“I wouldn’t work for Rockwool. I wouldn’t work for Big Pharma. I wouldn’t work for big corporations like that. I just wouldn’t.”
Espinosa was invited to be on This Week in Morgan County to discuss issues with Hackett, but Espinosa declined the offer.
“I think it’s a little premature to engage in political debates as the official filing period for the West Virginia House of Delegates doesn’t begin until January, 2020 and of course there’s the matter of securing our respective party nominations,” Espinosa said.
Hackett said he was willing to come back to debate Espinosa if Espinosa agrees.
Espinosa did appear last week on WRNR’s Eastern Panhandle Talk with Rob Mario and David Welch. It was a fifteen minute interview and the Rockwool issue was not raised.
That won’t be the case going forward as Espinosa is now inextricably tied to Rockwool.
For all intents and purposes, if Hackett secures the Democratic nomination (and there are no other announced candidates at this point), it will be Hackett versus Rockwool.
May the best man win.