West Virginia Mountain Party chair Charlotte Pritt says that the party should not run a candidate for U.S. Senate in the November election.
The party will decide at its July convention whether to run a candidate in the race between Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (R) and Democrat Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D).
The small party is split over whether to run a candidate in the race.
One of the Mountain Party’s strongest candidates — Bob Henry Baber — was the first Mountain Party member elected to office when he became Mayor of Richwood in 2004.
Baber would be the party’s likely nominee for Senate if the party decided to throw its hat in the ring.
In 2011, Baber ran for Governor — getting 2.02 percent of the vote — and in 2012 he ran for Senate, getting 3.02 percent of the vote.
Pritt says that her decision to ask the convention not to run a candidate in the race is a “strategic one.”
The Mountain Party is slated to run eight candidates statewide — five for House of Delegates, one for state Senate, one for city council and one for county commission.
“We need to focus our resources on our local races,” Pritt said.
But the Mountain Party has notoriously little or no resources.
Still, Pritt says — “we have a lot to lose.”
By which she means — pro-choice voters across the state who would not be happy if a Mountain Party candidate were to challenge Tennant for liberal votes and which could cost her the election if the race tightens.
Pritt says the Senate race is “a non-essential race.”
Pritt considers the Governor’s race to be “essential,” because the party’s ballot access depends on getting one percent in a statewide race.
“The Senate race is not essential,” Pritt says. “It’s not good strategy to run a Mountain Party candidate in that race. And it’s a race we clearly cannot win. As a matter of strategy, we should be focusing on local races where we have a chance to win.”
“The clean water issues — fracking, mountaintop removal, industrial pollution — the major ones for the Mountain Party, are decided at the local level,” Pritt says. “That’s where we should be focusing our attention,”
Pritt says that by running someone for U.S. Senate, the party stands to lose more than it gains.
“If we make the difference in the Senate race, we will be seen as a spoiler,” Pritt said. “Pro-choice women have supported us in the last couple of elections for Governor. Women of other parties came to vote for us because there was no pro-choice candidate in those elections. The Mountain Party candidate was the only pro-choice candidate.”
“My biggest concern is how having someone run for Senate is going to affect our local candidates as they go door to door,” Pritt said.
What about 2016? What if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, and Jill Stein is running as the Green Party candidate for President in 2016? Would Pritt ask Stein not to be the Mountain Party nominee?
“No,” Pritt says. “I will support Jill Stein if she runs again as a Green Party candidate for President against Hillary Clinton,” Pritt says matter of factly.
But isn’t that the same kind of race as the U.S. Senate race?
In a tight race, you would be denying women voters the right to elect Clinton, who would become the nation’s first female President.
If you say — don’t run a candidate for the Senate to protect a woman’s right to chose, why wouldn’t you say — don’t run a candidate for President to protect a woman’s right to be in the White House?
Mountain Party executive committee member Frank Young understands the undemocratic nature of telling people “don’t run” and wants the Mountain Party to put up a candidate in the U.S. Senate race.
“If I were a Mountain Party candidate running for the legislature, county commission, or whatever, I would want someone running at the top of the ticket,” Young wrote on the Mountain Party Facebook page yesterday. “I would wonder why the party does not care enough to run any statewide candidate. And this year the top of the ticket is the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by (Jay) Rockefeller. Without a ‘top of the ticket’ candidate, the ballot line for our several Mountain Party candidates for district offices state legislature and county offices would be more likely to get lost in the overall clutter of the ballot.”
“I would like us to have a Mountain Party candidate for that office. With all respect to Bob Henry Baber, who tentatively suggested some weeks ago that he might be available to run for that office, I don’t particularly care who runs for it. And if it helps to get us off center on this, I herein offer to put my money where my mouth is and make a contribution to the campaign of whomever we might nominate for U.S. Senate in the amount of $ 870.00. This amount would cover half the filing fee to run for the office of U.S. Senate. This offer is to any candidate who would step up and be nominated for U.S. Senate by the Mountain Party at its 2014 convention this summer.”
Mountain Party conventions tend to be smallish affairs, with the last convention attended by 25 or so delegates. So, it could be that the side with a baker’s dozen wins this debate.