Election day is just a few short weeks away and West Virginia’s political identity is up for grabs. For the first time in more than 50 years, there is a real chance that the next Senator from West Virginia will be a Republican, not a Democrat. West Virginia has an open seat vacated by Mr. Rockefeller, and the race for the coveted seat has been heating up.
Shelly Moore Capito (R), who now holds a seat in Congress, and Natalie Tennant (D), West Virginia’s current Secretary of State, are both running energetic campaigns around the state. However, Capito has been pulling away of late in large part due to a barrage of television ads her campaign has run attacking Tennant on her endorsement of ObamaCare and her desire to “just be in office” no matter of position.
What seems to be getting eclipsed in this heated contest is where the candidates stand on social welfare programs that many West Virginians benefit from. For example, while Tennant is an avid supporter of the Affordable Care Act, Capito has repeatedly voted to repeal the ACA. Yet 104,827 West Virginia residents have been added to Medicaid since the ACA-fueled expansion of Medicaid on January 1st, according to the state Department of Health and Human Resources. Even so, West Virginia still has over 270,000 residents without basic health care coverage, according to Tennant.
So, why is Capito ahead in the polls given her conservative stance on health care? One Harrison County resident says she believes that Tennant is suffering in the polls because voters connect her with President Obama, who has negative ratings in West Virginia.
“When people hear the word Democrat, they automatically think of Obama, an Anti-Christ in some people’s eyes around here,” says Sara Logsdon, a resident of Harrison County.
West Virginia is known around the country as a conservative state and Capito has used that to her advantage by painting Tennant as an Obama apologist. Harrison County, in the heart of West Virginia, is an important county from an election perspective. Over 69,000 people live in Harrison County, a good chunk of the 1.8 million in the state of West Virginia.
Susan Thomas, Harrison County Clerk, suggested voter apathy in recent elections.
“I just think with the negative commercials, all of the negativity around the political world in general is not helping the democratic process,” said Thomas.
Some have tried to sign up for ObamaCare, but were locked out before they could get coverage. Lisa King has had many issues with the signup process.
“I have tried and tried to sign up,” said Lisa, “but it just locks me out at the end every single time.”
I recently spoke to Jeffery Worsham, a political science professor at West Virginia University, and asked him about the disconnect between the current polling numbers and Capito’s clear voting record against the working class and poor.
“Simple answer, voters aren’t rational,” said Worsham. “Voters cast a ballot influenced by other factors, many of which have no actual effect on them but for some reason resonate anyway.”
It’s a simple answer to a complex question- West Virginian’s vote irrationally.