POINT PLEASANT — A player in one of the biggest political battles for the U.S. Senate, playing out not only across the state but across the country, was in Point Pleasant Tuesday night.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D) attended the “It’s All About West Virginia Rally and Dinner” at Trinity UM Church’s community building, speaking to a packed house. Manchin is facing a challenge from GOP Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in a race that has seen not only President Donald Trump intercede in an attempt to get another Republican seat in the senate but the national media spinning the “what ifs” of winners and losers in the Mountain State.
Commissioner Rick Handley introduced Manchin who hit upon health care, Social Security and Medicare, the opioid epidemic, rural connectivity and broadband, as well as bipartisanship (and the lack of it) in Washington, D.C.
“This is the most important election that I have ever voted in in my life,” Manchin said. “Let me tell you why this one is so important, there is so much on the line that means so much to West Virginia…talk about healthcare, if you have a pre-existing condition and they’re talking about challenging the United States Constitution and saying insurance companies shouldn’t be made to allow you to buy insurance, they should make the decision whether they want to sell (it to you) or not…that’s really what it’s about, we’re not going back to those Draconian days, we’re fighting like the dickens…(for) 800,000 people in West Virginia, it will be a life or death sentence whether you’re going to be covered or not.”
Manchin also said this election was about Social Security and Medicare. He said 60 percent of people in West Virginia rely on social security as their only form of retirement income.
“Mitch McConnell said last week, we’re going to have to start making adjustments to entitlements, to Social Security and Medicare, I’m thinking to myself ‘entitlements’ …Social Security and Medicare is not a gift, you worked for it, you paid for it. That’s the lifeline that we’ve had. I’ve never seen such a stark difference in where we stand.”
Manchin claimed when Morrisey ran for congress in 2000 in New Jersey, part of his platform was to “repeal basically or privatize social security.”
Manchin then spoke about education. He addressed the 55 Strong movement and praised the teachers and service personnel whose work stoppage put “education in the forefront” in West Virginia and across the country. He said he’d visited the State Capitol during the work stoppage and felt the Republican leadership “truly believed you needed to strike…they felt the public would turn on the teachers and basically embarrass or force the teachers to go back (to work)…what happened united the entire community.
My opponent was looking and shopping for a superintendent, basically anybody that would sign an injunction against educators…couldn’t find one superintendent to sign an injunction,” Manchin said.
He then spoke about opiate addiction, and how this issue was bipartisan and affected everyone, “rich or poor” regardless of political affiliation. He referenced the recent opioid epidemic bill passed by congress to fight the epidemic and added “we must win this war.”
Manchin also addressed the partisan political atmosphere in Washington these days and he brought up the late U.S. Senator Jon McCain, calling him an “American hero,” and “a conservative Republican” but “first he was an American patriot” which received applause from throughout the room. He said McCain didn’t care about party affiliation, he cared about good ideas.
He gave insight into the moments leading up to McCain’s famous “no” vote to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act in the early hours on July 28, 2017, referencing that equally famous “thumbs down” gesture in front of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He talked about McCain that night meeting with Vice President Mike Pence at length in Pence’s office behind the senate floor and then “we heard” President Trump get on the phone with him. Manchin said he and his colleagues were watching this unfold, wondering if McCain could take the “pressure” but then someone interjected, “he was in a concentration camp for five-and-a-half years, you think they’re going to break him in two hours? That ain’t gonna happen.”
He said McCain wasn’t voting against the idea of repealing the health care act, but knew the bill “could be fixed” and “he didn’t want to take people with pre-existing conditions and throw them out in the cold…(with a yes vote).”
“The bill that would fix health care today has been sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk for the last nine months…he will not bring it to a vote, but you know why? When you fix things, you can’t blame anybody.”
Manchin then said both parties had contributed to this blame mindset.
“The thing I try to do is bring people together…I’ve told President Trump I want to work with you. I think every red-blooded American wants your president to succeed, I don’t care whether they’re Democrat or Republican…once he or she becomes the president, that’s my president. I’m in a position in the U.S. Senate to help everybody I can to make things successful but basically I don’t work for him (Trump), I work for you. So when he’s right I’m going to support him but when he’s not I’m going to stand up to him…”
In wrapping up his remarks, Manchin said, “I just believe there’s a balance to be had, I think if people want to work together, they want to make our country better, they can, but you’ve got to stand up, you’ve got to go vote. I’m asking all of you, find who you support, who you believe in…”
Also at the dinner, Emcee Jerrie Howard of the Mason County Democratic Women, asked candidates running for office to introduce themselves, which included, Brianne Soloman who is running for the House of Delegates 14th District, Delegate Scott Brewer who is running for House of Delegates 13th District, Mason County Circuit Clerk Suzi Caldwell who is running for circuit clerk, Attorney Brian Prim who is running for State Senate in the 4th District and Kanawha County Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit who is running for the West Virginia Supreme Court in Division 1.
Also, a moment of silence was observed for the late Pauletta Randolph King who was the Democratic candidate for county commission. King passed away a few weeks ago after a brief illness. A tribute to her was led by friend and classmate, Dave Morgan, who said “she is still running my friends” and urged those in the room to vote for her on the ballot which would allow a democratic candidate to be appointed to the seat.
Outstanding Democrat of the Year from Mason County, Bill Withers, former Mason County Circuit Clerk, was also honored.
The event was catered by Brad Deal Catering. Music provided by Blue Moves.
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.