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First Week of 2020 West Virginia Candidate Filing Period in the Books

CHARLESTON — The first week of the candidate filing period for the 2020 primaries and general election is in the books, with more than 202 candidates for statewide office filing between Saturday and Monday, Jan. 13.

Saturday culminated with a mass filing of candidates led by community organizer Stephen Smith, a Democratic candidate for governor.

“We are here today to write history,” Smith said to a sea of supporters Saturday morning in front of the House of Delegates Chamber at the State Capitol Building. “The last time a coalition of candidates came together like this representing West Virginia across race and county and gender and class was never.”

The candidates — more than 30 in number and including candidates for federal, state, and legislative offices — are part of the WV Can’t Wait movement. More than 70 candidates signed pledges to not take corporate campaign donations, stand for working people, be open to discussing issues, meet with the public, and not attack each other. Smith has been working to build the WV Can’t Wait movement since first filing precandidacy papers in November 2018.

“We know that politicians don’t write history, movements do,” Smith said. “Politicians didn’t lead the mine wars. Politicians didn’t lead the teachers and school service personnel strike that happened right here. That’s why we’ve spent the last two years recruiting hundreds of county and constituency captains, training thousands of volunteers.”

Smith gave his own State of the State address Saturday, where he and other candidates touted a platform developed by supporters offering solutions to increasing the workforce, improving the state’s economy, taxing out-of-state corporations, increasing educational attainment, and more. Some of the ideas include raising the minimum wage to $15, raising the natural gas severance tax, increasing investment in outdoor recreation and small businesses, a worker’s bill of rights, and a wealth tax.

“We want, we deserve, we demand a government where you don’t have to be wealthy in order to serve your state,” Smith said. “We need 1,000 leaders, not just one.”

Smith is one of seven candidates who filed for governor in the last six days and the third Democratic candidate to file. Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango was the first Democratic candidate to file for governor Thursday, surrounded by a sea of supporters holding signs and wearing Ben buttons.

“I am so honored and proud of the support I’ve received throughout the precandidacy period. I’m so honored and humbled by the support from the folks today who have shown up. We’re running a strong campaign. We’re out and about nearly every single day. We’re raising a lot of money and spreading our message. It’s time for a change in West Virginia and now is the time to do it.”

Later Thursday afternoon, state Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, filed his paperwork for the May 12 primary ballot for governor. Stollings, a family physician, was joined be recovering victims of substance abuse and their families to bring focus to the issues Stollings wants to bring attention to: the state’s substance abuse epidemic that’s breaking apart families and destroying the state’s economy.

“I’m running for governor because I care about you,” Stollings said, overcome with emotion. “When I see the struggles that my patients are having due to this substance disorder and so much unmet need, I have to step up to the plate … This state needs someone like me that knows the health policy, that has the experience, that has the heart. It’s now.”

Also Thursday, Gov. Jim Justice filed for reelection for his second term – the fifth Republican to file for governor since Monday. Justice, who won election in 2016 as a Democrat and switched parties to Republican in 2017, touted his relationship with President Donald Trump and last two years of budget surpluses as reasons for voters to support him in May. Justice also pointed to record-setting growth of personal revenue, GDP growth, job growth and business expansion, road construction, and increased funding for seniors and veterans.

“I’m running because of the same reason I ran in the beginning. I genuinely love our people and our state,” Justice said. “At the end of the day, I’ve done my job. The stars are aligned so perfectly for opportunity for us going forward. I hope and pray that people see that. I am here for them, I’m not here for me.”

Justice joins former Commerce Department secretary Woody Thrasher, former Berkeley County delegate Mike Folk, Martinsburg resident Shelby Fitzhugh, and Burton resident Doug Six on the Republican ballot for governor.

Justice also filed paperwork Thursday to put Trump on the ballot in West Virginia. Trump, seeking a second term while he is awaiting an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, so far only faces one primary challenger, frequent national candidate Rocky De Le Fuente. Justice said he was honored to file the paperwork for his friend.

“It’s unbelievable, it’s an incredible honor. Humbling.” Justice said. “To file my paperwork myself is surely an honor, but to be able to file for President Trump, who I dearly love and I think is doing a fabulous job and I hate like crazy the arrows he catches all the time, but he is doing an unbelievable job … he genuinely cares about West Virginians.”

Since Monday, three Democratic candidates for U.S. President have filed, including former vice president Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., and former Maryland congressman John Delaney. Sanders carried West Virginia in the 2016 Democratic primary for president, beating former U.S. senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 51 percent to 36 percent. Sanders and Delaney join former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Parkersburg resident Dave Rice.

In the U.S. Senate race, Republican Shelley Moore Capito filed for her second six-year term. Capito served seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives starting in 2000 before winning election in 2014 to the U.S. Senate seat held by the retiring Democrat Jay Rockefeller. She beat then-Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, the Democratic opponent, 62 percent to 34 percent.

On the Democratic side, former Logan County state senator Richard Ojeda and Paula Swearengin, who challenged U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin in the 2018 primary, filed to take on Capito in the November general election for U.S. Senate.

In the 2nd Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., filed for his third term. He took Capito’s House seat after she won election to the U.S. Senate in 2014. In the Democratic side of the 2nd District race, environmental activist Kathy Kunkel filed paperwork to challenge Mooney if he wins his primary. In the 3rd Congressional District, Huntington resident Hilary Turner filed to challenge U.S. Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va.

In the races for Board of Public Works seats, Secretary of State Mac Warner filed for his second term as the state’s chief elections officer. Former Secretary of State Natalie Tennant – a Democrat – filed to get her old seat back, which she lost to Warner in 2016 49 percent to 47 percent.

For Commissioner of Agriculture, state Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, filed Friday to take on current Commissioner Kent Leonhardt in 2020. Beach will face Tunnelton resident Dave Miller in the Democratic primary in May.

For West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, which has its general election in May, Chief Justice Tim Armstead filed for his first full 12-year term on the state’s highest court. He will face former two-term Supreme Court justice Richard Neely, who resigned for the court in 1995.

The 2020 candidate filing period will continue Monday, Jan. 20, and end at midnight on Saturday, Jan. 25. Candidates can either file in person at the Secretary of State’s Office in Charleston, or the business hubs in Clarksburg and Martinsburg. Days and hours can be found at wvsos.gov. Candidates can also file by mail as long as the filing is postmarked by Saturday.

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