West Virginia Senator Craig Blair (R-15) survived a political scare earlier this year in the June Republican primary, receiving 8,054 votes (53 percent) to Kenneth Mattson’s 7,221 (47 percent).
Mattson getting 47 percent of the vote against the incumbent and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee was one indication that Blair was politically vulnerable in a volatile election year.
Yesterday on the WRNR program Eastern Panhandle Talk with Rob Mario and David Welch, Welch handicapped the race between Blair and Mountain Party candidate Donald Kinnie. There is no Democrat in the race.
Welch downplayed Blair’s vulnerabilities.
“That’s a very low turnout in the primary and I would suspect that Craig Blair would be much stronger in the general,” Welch said.
In his last election in 2016, Blair easily defeated Democrat Brad Noll 30,475 (70 percent) to 13,629 (30 percent).
The 15th Senate District includes parts of Berkeley and Mineral counties and all of Morgan and Hampshire counties.
“I don’t see anything to suggest that Craig Blair would be in trouble in the general election,” Welch said.
Don’t tell that to Kinnie, who works at WRNR in Martinsburg.
Kinnie thinks that Blair is in serious trouble with the state’s teachers. And it was teachers who propelled several upsets statewide in the recent Republican primary election — including the defeat of Senate President Mitch Carmichael by elementary school teacher Amy Nichole Grady and and the defeat of Delegate Daryl Cowles in the 58th by the teachers’ union backed candidacy of George Miller.
Blair suggested at a recent candidate forum that if the teachers don’t show up to work because of Covid-19 health concerns, that they all be fired or furloughed.
Kinnie’s mother was a special ed teacher and as a child, Kinnie walked the picket lines with his mother during the 11 day West Virginia teachers’ strike in 1990.
Kinnie is originally from Augusta, West Virginia.
“I grew up in a little farmhouse down there,” Kinnie told Morgan County USA. “I started out with the old fashioned West Virginia farm boy upbringing. And my father was and still is a lumberjack. He has pulpwood and timber business. And my mother was a schoolteacher. She taught special ed.”
“When I started school we moved to Inwood, West Virginia. So I came up through Inwood Primary, Value View Elementary and Musselman Middle and High Schools.”
“With my mother being a teacher, I was with her on strike back in 1990,” Kinnie said. “I was actually on the picket line with the teachers, holding signs. So, I’m very sympathetic to the teachers.”
“Craig Blair has been outspoken on teacher issues and that is something that sets us apart,” Kinnie said.
Kinnie has been a lifelong practitioner of martial arts and he now teaches kung fu classes at Elite Martial Arts and MMA in Martinsburg, West Virginia.
“Martial arts is something I’ve always been passionate about,” Kinnie said. “And that was my original thought process in running.”
“Something I teach in martial arts is what are called the five virtues – honor, loyalty, perseverance, benevolence and integrity.”
“And those are for the most part missing in today’s politics. And they are virtues that I want to bring into this campaign.”
Kinnie says that the polarization between Republicans and Democrats is corrosive to the democratic process and his preference would be that we move to a political system where there are no parties and that everyone runs as an independent on their values.
“It’s not that one party is good and one party is bad,” Kinnie said. “You just go through each issue one by one and do the right thing.”
Kinnie’s wife Mary Kinnie is a Mountain Party candidate for House of Delegates in the 60th district. Mary Kinnie is running against Republican Don Forsht and Democrat Brad Knoll.
Donald and Mary Kinnie have a joint web site – KinnieforWV – in which they support a living wage, healthcare as a human right, a ban on mountain top removal mining and fracking, and progressive criminal justice reform.