West Virginia was Bernie territory in the 2016 primary. Most people know that he beat Hillary in every single county, but fewer people know he also garnered more votes than Trump did in many counties. West Virginia voters are a lot more progressive than people think.
No need to write West Virginia off– even if Trump did win every single county and pulverize the status quo Democrat in the general election. West Virginians weren’t interested in preserving the status quo. Since Trump was inaugurated in 2017, his job approval, according the the Morning Consult Trump Tracker, has decreased among West Virginia voters by 13 points.
Cathy Kunkel, who earned undergraduate and master’s degrees in physics from Princeton and Cambridge, is nothing like a status quo Democrat. She’s been fighting for West Virginians for the last decade. After the 2014 Freedom Industries chemical spill contaminated the drinking water of Charleston and the surrounding region, Cathy co-founded Advocates for a Safe Water System, a community group that fought for three years to win improvements to the safety of the drinking water.
Cathy also co-founded and chaired Rise Up WV, an organization that advocates for expanded healthcare access, public education, and better services for people struggling with addiction. During West Virginia’s 2018 and 2019 school employee strikes, Rise Up WV administered strike funds that raised over $340,000 for striking employees. Rise Up WV has helped to win state legislative victories around healthcare access and to elect new candidates for municipal government and state legislature in the Charleston area.
An energy policy expert, she has testified before the West Virginia Public Service Commission to defeat an electric utility corporate bailout that would have cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars; to defend West Virginia’s rooftop solar laws; and to strengthen energy efficiency programs and save consumers money.
Cathy is running for Congress as part of WV Can’t Wait, a coalition of more than 90 candidates running for offices up and down the ballot in West Virginia who have all pledged not to take corporate money in their campaigns. Cathy is unopposed in the Democratic primary and will face Rep. Mooney in November. Though the DCCC is ignoring the race, Mooney won his re-election in 2018 with 54% of the vote, and the WV Can’t Wait coalition is working hard this year to turn out the thousands of voters who have become disenchanted with the establishments of both parties.
“In recent weeks, Cathy told us yesterday, Rep. Mooney’s contempt for the people of his district has been on full display. In March, Mooney was one of 40 members of Congress who voted against the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act. Among other things, this bill mandated free coronavirus testing, expanded paid sick days and bolstered unemployment insurance and food assistance. Mooney’s argument was that he wanted to wait and see how the previous round of federal coronavirus spending went before authorizing more spending.
“Of course, it turns out that both the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act and its predecessor were a drop in the bucket in terms of addressing the severe economic shock caused by the coronavirus. Shortly thereafter, Congress passed the CARES Act, which authorized $1200 relief payments, pandemic unemployment insurance, the small business paycheck protection program, and a massive corporate bailout fund at the discretion of the Treasury. You might think that a fiscal conservative like Congressman Mooney would have been concerned about these corporate bailouts, but apparently not.
“Instead, on May Day, Congressman Mooney co-sponsored legislation (H.R. 6657, the WUHAN Recissions Act) to claw back some of the spending authorized in the CARES Act— not the hundreds of billions authorized for corporate bailouts, but the hundreds of millions (or less) authorized for the Legal Services Corporation, public transportation, rural telecommunications, international disaster assistance and the Peace Corps.
Prior to the pandemic, nearly a quarter of West Virginia’s workforce was employed in low-wage, service sector jobs, and one in five West Virginia kids struggled with hunger. Today, demand at food banks has surged more than 40%, unemployment has skyrocketed and nearly 60,000 West Virginians have lost their employer-provided health insurance during a pandemic.
“Yet the struggle of thousands of West Virginians to afford rent, food and healthcare is somehow not as important as cutting funding for programs that Congressman Mooney ideologically opposes. Sadly, this is no surprise given the rest of Congressman Mooney’s record. He voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, against raising the minimum wage and in favor of eliminating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He has even gone so far as to introduce legislation to put the U.S. back on the gold standard.
What West Virginia actually needs in this moment is not Congressman Mooney’s failed ideology, but real relief for working people. That includes rent and mortgage payment cancellations, ongoing economic stimulus payments, paid sick days for all workers and prioritization of small business relief.
“And going forward, West Virginia needs Medicare for All and billions of dollars of federal investment to put people back to work building the infrastructure the state needs to move forward. West Virginia could employ thousands of people in building rural broadband, upgrading drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, and fixing the damage that coal and gas corporations have done to the state’s land and water. The pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis highlight the urgency of a Green New Deal to create jobs, protect workers and communities, and lay the foundation for a more diverse and stable economic future for the state.”
Please consider contributing what you can to help replace a total Trump enabler with an independent-minded progressive woman. We are certain Cathy Kunkel will be an extraordinary member of Congress, someone who will make us all proud.
Thanks for always doing what you can to make this a better world,
Howie, for the entire Blue America team