BUCKHANNON — Members of the West Virginia Can’t Wait movement held their second Get Out the Vote picnic at Buckhannon City Park Saturday, with over 35 West Virginians in attendance. The picnic started out with attendees getting to know one another, then they listened as the candidates gave a little more information to their campaigns. Afterwards, attendees enjoyed lunch and filled out postcards.
Cathy Kunkel, candidate for the Second Congressional District, said she pledged to join the movement because she likes the idea of not taking corporate money for her campaign. “The West Virginia Can’t Wait movement was one of the things that inspired me to run in the first place,” Kunkel shared. Some of Kunkel’s campaign points are healthcare for all, a well-funded public education system and bringing federal infrastructure back into West Virginia.
West Virginia State Auditor candidate Mary Ann Claytor was also at the event, aiming to visit all 55 counties while passing out masks along her way. “We’re driving through, county by county, and trying to talk to people so that they can understand the importance of having an Auditor with an accounting degree. A lot of people may not know that people use these positions in a pinch for their aspirations. This is what I went to school for,” Claytor said. She added that she will use her experience “to get us back to where we concentrate on making sure we have the skills for a job that we have, and to make it less political, in a sense.”
Elkins resident Travis Norwood publicly announced his campaign for Elkins City Council at the event. His campaign is still in the very early stages, but Norwood said he wants to enact term limits for the Council and Mayor, wage increases for the sanitation, water and sewer workers, and also wants to see local cities start acting on marijuana decriminalization. Norwood explained that he has always been interested in politics, which he has followed since he was a teenager. “Ever since I was 18, I’ve been wanting to run for City Council. But now that I’m kind of out on my own and pretty financially stable, I feel right now is the time to do it,” he explained.
Matthew Nevin, intern for U.S. Senate candidate Paula Jean Swearengin, came to the picnic to represent Swearengin, who has also joined WV Can’t Wait
WV Can’t Wait is a movement for candidates who pledge not to accept corporate money to help their campaigns. Their goal is to recruit 1,000 volunteers and they currently have more than 270 members working for the cause. Their final get together before the election will be at the Maxwell Hill Community Center in Beckley at 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Several candidates out of the 51 who have signed the WV Can’t Wait pledge on the ballot will be attending.
Katey Lauer, WV Can’t Wait Co-Chair, explained that all candidates have signed a pledge to not take corporate cash, hide from a debate or cross the picket line.
The movement’s other Co-chair Stephen Smith explained, “Right now, we have a government at every level in West Virginia that tries to make lives better for very rich people who don’t live here. We want a government that answers to more working- and middle-class people in West Virginia, who have forever worked the hardest and sacrificed the most, but always get hurt by the government that’s supposed to represent them. In order to change that, in order to get a government that works of, by and for the people, we need campaigns that are funded by and organized by the people.”
“To our surprise, we are now in conversation with 12 other states who want to know what’s going on in West Virginia and how they can do it. Just yesterday, Katey and I got an email where the subject heading was ‘Hawaii Can’t Wait?’,” Smith said.
“I’m just so impressed that this movement didn’t die, that it just kept gaining momentum and people from outside the state are taking a look at it,” Buckhannon local Brooke Scott said.
“There’s a lot of people looking at West Virginia and seeing what we’re doing, so that’s really good,” local Mike Highan added.
Cassandra Ellswood, a Randolph County teacher, attended as she is interested in politics. “I’m not originally from here; I’m from Austin, Texas where things are very different. My friends have pretty much attached ourselves to the West Virginia Can’t Wait movement and it’s been really cool to see the different sides of West Virginia and the different ways we can actually improve West Virginia,” Ellswood said. “One of my favorite things about West Virginia is how kind everyone is here, and I feel that this movement is the pinnacle of that kindness. It shows what West Virginia can be, and not just the stereotypes.”
For those interested in learning more about WV Can’t Wait or want to get involved, visit their website at https://wvcantwait.com/, join the picnic in Beckley Saturday, or call Smith at (304) 610-6512. “If you’re tired of the government being run by corporate lobbyists, come join us and vote something diff