BUCKHANNON — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stephen Smith joined the Lewis and Upshur County communities with townhall meetings Sunday, to discuss his plans if elected governor of the great state of West Virginia. Smith started a movement called “WV Can’t Wait,” in which 85 other candidates and constituents across the state have joined. Upshur County’s gathering, hosted with food and refreshments by the Opportunity House, was Smith’s 167th townhall in the state.
“WV Can’t Wait” is a movement encompassing all kinds of people across our state. “We don’t think that one governor is the answer. So, if we want a government that’s actually going to respond to the people, we need a whole movement of people running up and down the ballot and we need people outside the government circle. WV Can’t Wait is a movement to try to win a people’s government. I’m running for governor, but I’m only one of 85 candidates who have signed a pledge, saying we’re not going to take corporate cash, we’re never going to cross the picket line, and we’ll never hide from a debate. The candidates are only one small piece of that puzzle; we’ve got the volunteer teams in every county, and constituents contributing,” explained Smith. Smith is also running the first-ever unionized campaign – giving his employees union pay and benefits. Smith said he needs 1,300 votes from Upshur County and 150,000 in the primary to win this election.
Congressional candidate Cathy Kunkel, U.S. House of Delegates candidate Brittney Barlett, Buckhannon City Council candidates Matt Kerner and Shauna Jones, and BOE candidate Pat Long, have all joined the movement and attended Upshur County’s townhall meeting Sunday afternoon. Each candidate expressed a need for inclusiveness in our city, our county, and our state, and a willingness to never back down.
Smith mentioned the three crucial things their campaign needs: a plan, people, and engagement with voters. They spent an entire year building the plan through 167 townhalls and 11,000 conversations with voters. The plan includes choosing taxpayers instead of tax dodgers, choosing workers instead of Wall Street, choosing patients over big pharma, choosing children over cheats. Smith explained what this looks like, is a state that has a tax payer council, not taking out of state companies and instead shifting them to the tax paying small businesses, ending election buying, creation of a public state bank creating our own capital to assist in local infrastructure and working class citizens, equal pay for equal work, creating caps on prescription drug costs, treatment and recovery center for every county member, full cannabis legalization, bringing the opioid crisis down, Medicare for all at the federal level, reversing the upside-down tax structure so there is enough for our state to provide childcare for every working family and creating the most generous loan forgiveness plan ever thought of.
Smith explained their plan “keeps us together, it’s what allows us to attract people…most people in WV have given up on the political process, they’ve heard every slogan, but what hasn’t been tried is a detailed clear plan and visions of what we want to win.”
Smith was born in Charleston, West Virginia 40 years ago and is a Harvard graduate. His dad started the West Virginia Coalition for the Homeless and Smith himself spent seven years leading an anti-poverty organization. Smith said, “In West Virginia, we judge ourselves by the people we help and serve, more than the stuff.” On wvcantwait.com, Smith expressed, “Every 50 years or so in West Virginia history, the system becomes so broken and our pain becomes so deep, that real change becomes necessary and possible. The Civil War, the Mine Wars, the Teacher’s Strike – it is in our blood to fight for our people, no matter their race, their accent, or who their father was. I’m running for governor because I believe that this is one of those moments, and I want my 6-year-old son to know whose side I was on.”
There was $1,300 donated to the “WV Can’t Wait” campaign during Upshur County’s townhall meeting Sunday afternoon. As of right now, this campaign has raised more small donations than all of the 2016 Democratic candidates for governor combined.