Charlotte Pritt Challenges the Corporate State of West Virginia

Who is the only candidate to defeat Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) in a political race?

That would be Charlotte Pritt.


Pritt served for eight years – from 1984 to 1992 – in the West Virginia legislature as a self proclaimed FDR Democrat

In 1996, she ran against Manchin in the Democratic primary for Governor of West Virginia.

Pritt defeated Manchin 40 percent to 33 percent in that primary.

Manchin refused to support Pritt in the general and Manchin’s lackeys started an organization called Democrats for Cecil Underwood – Underwood being the Republican running against Pritt in the general. Pritt believes that organization made the difference pushing Underwood to a 52 percent to 46 percent victory.

Fast forward twenty years to 2016.

Manchin is now the pre-eminent corporate Democrat in the U.S. Senate.

His hand-picked candidate for Governor is the state’s only billionaire — Jim Justice — who made it as a coal operator then opened the state’s premier resort — The Greenbrier.

Pritt is now running for Governor as the Mountain Party candidate against the Democrat Justice and the Republican Bill Cole.

A recent statewide MetroNews poll put Justice at 46 percent, Cole with 32 percent, Pritt with 8 percent, and Libertarian David Moran with 5 percent.

But other polls show a much tighter race. Larry Sabato says the race is a toss up.

That’s why last week, the Democratic Party in West Virginia, controlled by Manchin and his lobbyist buddy Larry Puccio, sent out an email to Democrats in the state under the title “We told you so.”

“Bill Cole and the Republicans have adopted Charlotte Pritt,” wrote West Virginia Democratic Party Chair Belinda Biafore. “I’ve warned you that Bill Cole and West Virginia Republicans would be up to their usual dirty tricks this fall to promote Pritt, and it didn’t take long. They are funding her campaign to take away votes from Jim Justice.”

“Charlotte Pritt can’t win. Bill Cole wants to scam the voters by propping up her campaign because he is so far behind in the polls.”

“Make no mistake; a vote for Pritt is a vote for Cole.”

“Bray Cary — a Cole mega donor and GOP shill — put Pritt on his show this week. The West Virginia GOP is betting the farm on Pritt taking away enough votes from Jim Justice so Cole can sneak in.”

“Do not be fooled. Expect to see the Republicans pull out all the stops for Cole’s new running mate.”

“We can’t let these underhanded tactics from Cole and his allies gain traction.”

Pritt said she has taken no money from state Republicans.

“Belinda Biafore, Senator Joe Manchin’s cousin, directly accused me of receiving campaign funds from Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bill Cole,” Pritt said. “For the record, I have not received one penny from Bill Cole, his campaign, or the GOP.”

“My candidacy is focused entirely on issues that the Democratic Party once stood for. During the eight years that I served in the West Virginia Legislature, I maintained a 100 percent voting record on behalf of senior citizens, labor, small businesses, West Virginians with disabilities, women and children’s health issues and protecting drinkable water.  My legislative record of supporting people’s interests over corporations earned me the titles of ‘The Defender of the People’ and the ‘Mother Jones of the West Virginia Legislature’”

Pritt says that Justice and Cole are two corporate candidates and the people of West Virginia deserve an alternative.

She says that Manchin has been tied to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) even when she first beat him in 1996.

“Manchin was involved with ALEC even back then,” Pritt told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last week. “There I was — Charlotte Pritt, a New Deal FDR Democrat. And I was up against Joe Manchin who had ALEC behind him and every newspaper in the state. But we still beat him in the primary. The people of West Virginia were clear. They did not resonate with the corporate candidate. They resonated with the coal miner’s daughter who had voted with the people.”

“After I beat him, he started a group called Democrats for Underwood. Cecil Underwood was the Republican.”

Why did Joe Manchin do that?

“Because he’s a corporatist and I’m an FDR Democrat. There has been a Moore Manchin faction in West Virginia that has been for corporations. The Manchins and the Moores have always supported one another. The Manchin family has been traditionally Republicans in Democratic clothing.”

The Moores are the Republicans. That’s the current Senator Shelley Moore Capito. Her father was the former Governor Arch Moore. The Manchins are the Democrats. That’s the current Senator Joe Manchin.

You lost the 1996 election to Cecil Underwood by 51 percent to 46 percent. Are you convinced that Manchin made the difference in that election?

“I sued the Republican National Committee for putting up false television ads. And in deposition, Manchin’s name was mentioned over 100 times. They were trying to say that Joe Manchin was the cause, not the ads that I sued them over.”

What did you sue over?

“I sued them over these negative ads. They were saying I was trying to make first graders wear condoms, that I was for children watching R rated videos. The Republican Senatorial Committee came in the last week and flooded the state with these outrageously false ads. I sued. Although I didn’t win damages, they did admit that they lied.”

Was that your last political race?

“No. I ran again in 2000 as a Democrat for Secretary of State. I lost to Joe Manchin. That was my last race before this one.”

It’s been 16 years. Why did you decide to run again for Governor this year?

“I was drafted. The Mountain Party hoped that the Reverend Jim Lewis was going to be our nominee for Governor. Then he had to have knee surgery. He was not going to be able to campaign for several weeks. He is the treasurer for my campaign. I was the pinch hitter. I had promised that if no one else was able to do it, then I would step up, to make certain that we had a nominee.”

“I realized how much is in the balance and what dire straits we are in here in West Virginia. I could not turn my back on the people. They need someone who is experienced to navigate through these waters, to get us through this period. Jim Justice doesn’t have a clue. It will be Larry Puccio and Joe Manchin running the state. It will be more ALEC. Or it will be Bill Cole, the Republican. But Joe Manchin had much closer ties with ALEC than Bill Cole ever thought about having. Joe Manchin is their poster boy. He was the only Democrat in the Senate who was an ALEC person. He was their national treasurer at one point. And he was certainly the state chair. He has been with ALEC since the 1990s, working behind the scenes for the corporations.”

Cole and Manchin are two corporate candidates?

“Both ALEC. My economic development plan has to meet three criteria. It must sustainable. It must be renewable. Solar renewable. Hemp products. Decriminalize cannabis. We would create a hemp industry here in West Virginia — the shoes, the clothing, the rope.”

“It must be equitable so that everyone participates in the financial prosperity, not just big corporations. Small farms and retailers would benefit.”

“And we have to make certain that it’s ecologically sound. We have a beautiful state for national tourism.”

If we move away from coal, what do the coal miners do?

“The Appalachian Regional Commission has money coming in right now from the Clean Power Act. I would take that money and pay our coal miners $15 a hour to weatherize homes. Take classes at the New River Technical and Community College in Beckley. Learn how to do carpentry, electrical work, plumbing. They will do their own homes first. And then they will be trained to work on other homes. Then I want to talk to New River about teaching people how to build and install solar panels. We should put solar farms on the tops of mountains that have already been destroyed, so we can generate energy that we own ourselves.”

“We are now an ALEC state. That would stop.”

“Coal is on its way out,” Pritt says. “It not truthful to tell the people of West Virginia that we can bring coal back. It’s gone. It’s dying a slow death. I will try to make certain that if we can do coal mining sound, that we have a little bit of time to get other industries in place so that displaced miners who are still working in the mines will have a place to go. But it’s political pandering to say we are going to keep coal jobs in West Virginia.”

Will you be on the debates?

“No, not on the televised debates. We are being excluded. Same as at the national level. They told us that because our previous gubernatorial candidate didn’t get 15 percent in the election, then we can’t debate this time. It’s controlled by West Virginia Public Broadcasting and West Virginia AARP. AARP by the way, up until last month, was a member of ALEC.”

There hasn’t been much press about your campaign. There were a few reports when you announced. Why is that?

“You have ALEC controlling the state. The corporations control the legislature. They control the media. We are here in a third world country. They know that if the word gets out about Charlotte Pritt running again, they won’t know what to do.”

“A friend of mine not long after I announced, had to go to go to the West Virginia Bar Association. And there were Republicans saying — what are we going to do about the Pritt factor? She might win? And Democrats and Republicans both were saying — what are we going to do about the Pritt factor? They don’t want the people of West Virginia to know that they have someone they can trust beyond a shadow of a doubt who will be there with them. And that she will fight for clean water and to keep the toxic dumps out. I did that when I was in the legislature.”

“The legislative service’s biography named me the defender of the people and the Mother Jones of the West Virginia legislature.”

[For the complete question/answer format with Charlotte Pritt, see 30 Corporate Crime Reporter 37(13), Monday September 26, 2016, print edition only.]

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