W.Va. State Sen. Jeff Kessler To Support Hillary Clinton

WHEELING — West Virginia state Sen. Jeff Kessler endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders months ago, but now says he’ll support Hillary Clinton following Sanders’ message to supporters on Monday.

Kessler said he also empathizes with Sanders, who in leaked emails appears to have been targeted for defeat by a Democrat establishment wanting their candidate of choice to be elected. Kessler, D-Marshall, lost his own bid for the Democratic nomination for governor this year.

Kessler is among the 37-member West Virginia delegation attending this week’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, and Clinton is expected to receive the Democratic nomination for president over Sanders during the convention.

Two Ohio County residents, Sue Thorn and Joe Jividen, also are representing West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle in Philadelphia, as is Kimberly Frum of Paden City.

Thorn and Jividen are Sanders supporters, while Frum is pledged to Clinton. None immediately returned calls seeking comment.

On Monday morning, Sanders gathered the delegates who supported his campaign for a breakfast meeting prior to the start of the convention.

“He told us our No. 1 mission has to be (defeating) Donald Trump, and he encouraged his supporters to make sure he is not elected as our next president,” Kessler said. “Some of the supporters were chanting ‘never give up,’ but he understands he doesn’t have the delegate numbers to prevail.”

Kessler said Sanders’ sentiment was in stark contrast to former Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz’s refusal to endorse nominee Donald Trump during last week’s Republican National Convention.

“Anyone is better than Trump — he’s the worst thing in the world that could happen to America,” Kessler said. “He seems to want to make America hate again. There was a litany of words against one group right after another. I’ve not seen anything like it. And former presidents refused to attend. There were none of the traditional standard bearers, and no vision of what they are going to do.

“There were vague promises of building walls and ‘making America great again’ with no specifics on how they would do it.”

The Democrats, meanwhile, will unveil “real policy” over the next few days, according to Kessler.

The convention began amid controversy after WikiLeaks over the weekend unleashed about 20,000 emails from Democratic National Committee officials. Many of these indicated growing concern about the increasing popularity of Sanders’ campaign, and that officials discussed how to keep Sanders from defeating Clinton for the nomination.

The leaked emails led to Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz stepping down on Sunday.

“The Bernie folks, today, expressed anger and disappointment over the emails,” Kessler said. “But Bernie has been saying all along he felt the Democratic National Committee had thrown in with with the Clinton machine, and that that was completely inappropriate.

“Despite this, Sanders is a stand-up guy. He did the right thing. This is about more than one person or personalities. This is about our platform, which is so much better than the alternative.”

Kessler believes it’s wrong for the committee to favor one of its presidential candidates over another.

“I know what it’s like when the party does this. I felt like it happened in my own campaign,” Kessler said. “But at the end of the day we just didn’t win. We moved on.”