Chris Regan Blames Sen. Joe Manchin, Larry Puccio for Democrat Party Vice Chair Ouster
WHEELING — Christopher Regan is no longer the vice chairman of the West Virginia Democrat Party after losing a bid for party chairman earlier this month, and he blames Sen. Joe Manchin and former Chairman Larry Puccio for his ouster.
Manchin and Puccio, meanwhile, both said Regan, a Wheeling attorney, simply lost his bid to be state party chairman for the second year straight year, and no one nominated him to be vice-chairman.
Regan sought to unseat chairwoman Belinda Biafore during the West Virginia Democratic Party Convention, which took place June 10-11 in Charleston. State Sen. Bill Laird of Fayette County was selected to be the new vice-chairman, replacing Regan.
“The powers that be — Sen. Manchin and Larry Puccio — wanted their own team for all the party leadership positions,” Regan said. “They chose somebody else, and the committee voted them in.”
Manchin spokesman Jonathan Kott said it was his understanding Regan decided to run for chairman and give up his post as vice-chair.
“And even his strongest supporters, who (previously) voted for him for vice-chair, chose not to support his bid to be chairman,” Kott said. “I am a firm believer in the people’s vote and the committee members spoke in this race. The vote was 41-26 and that is a clear decision.”
Puccio is a former state party chairman who still holds a vote on the state Democrat Executive Committee, and he continues to hold influence over the other committee members, according to Regan.
“I had one vote of 77,” Puccio said. “My vote is just one vote. I don’t know how he can attribute that to me. Everyone knows there can only be one winner in an election, and he ran last year and lost. That individual just had more support than him. I’ve never seen an election yet where everybody wins.”
Puccio said it also was his understanding Regan wanted to be chairman, and wasn’t interested in continuing as vice-chairman.
“After the vote on the chairmanship, there were no other nominations on the floor for vice chairman, and Sen. Laird ran unopposed,” Puccio said. “I would have thought if he wanted to be vice chairman, he would have asked someone to nominate him.
“He is misleading people when he says he was ‘ousted,'” Puccio continued.
“He was soundly defeated for the chairmanship last year, and he lost the same (race) this year. Obviously he didn’t wish to serve in any other capacity. I don’t know how he can attribute that to me.”
Prior to the vote on party leadership, Manchin hosted a luncheon to honor Biafore and push his ticket for party leadership, Regan said. During this luncheon, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jim Justice also spoke and thanked Biafore and Laird for their help in getting him the nomination.
Regan said he had no confrontations with Manchin prior to the convention, and actually hadn’t spoken with him on any issues.
“I had not had much of any contact with him at all,” Regan said. “It seems clear that I just wasn’t the candidate he and Puccio wanted. … I had endorsed Sen. (Bernie) Sanders early on for president, and Sen. Manchin is a (Hillary) Clinton supporter. I think he was offended by my support for Sen. Sanders.”
Despite his ouster during the convention, Regan said he saw many positives on the convention floor. There were a lot of younger faces with innovative ideas, he said, and he attributes their presence to Sanders’ success across the state.