Democratic candidates gather for a socially distanced support rally


The Democrat rally was held on the fairgrounds.

By Bobby Bordelon

The Greenbrier County Democratic Party, unable to campaign during the canceled 2020 State Fair of West Virginia, set out to find another alternative. Working with the Greenbrier County Health Department, a number of candidates, ranging from county commissioner to House of Representatives, addressed socially-distanced groups of 25 on the fairgrounds on Sunday, August 16.

It’s a good day in Greenbrier County and given the tempo of this campaign, it’s a good day to be anywhere other than in relative isolation and the comfort of my own home,” joked West Virginia State Senate Candidate Bill Laird.

With Senator Stephen Baldwin serving as MC, and Cathy Sawyer sanitizing the microphone between each speaker, each was met with support from the others, calling for a blue ticket in order to address specific issues, such as the business and inventory tax, healthcare, the opioid crisis, water infrastructure, and more.

I’m so honored to be a part of this slate,” said Delegate Cindy Lavender-Bowe. “We need your support. We need to flip seats up and down the ballot to blue. We need that because we are the voices of the working people of West Virginia, there fighting for economic security. We are there fighting to make a difference in the opioid crisis in this state. … We’re in a really tremendous fight right now.”

Each of the candidates addressed the crowd, explaining a bit of who they were and why they were running for the position they’re vying for. For each of those candidates, see below for links to their website and a portion of each of their speeches:

Dan Withrow – Greenbrier County Commission –

One of my why’s [of running], and I never thought I would be doing this, is looking at the money that the county is spending on that recreational facility in that location,” said Withrow. “It’s beyond me, I cannot find a positive reason why they’ve already spent $2 million for a facility that I don’t see that’s ever going to happen. They’re needing somewhere between another $4 to $6 million to complete that project and I don’t know how many of you know where the location is, but if you go to the landfill, you can’t miss it. … Beyond that I think it’s time that we as Greenbrier County pulls together. … What can we do to help [our] struggling communities?”

Bruce Sloan – Greenbrier County Sheriff –

My goal in the sheriff’s office from day one was to make Greenbrier County the best trained, the best equipped, most responsive to the needs of the citizens,” said Sloan. “I don’t make promises that I don’t think I can keep and I’m not going to do that now. I’m not going to promise people I’m going to solve all the society ills in Greenbrier County, crimes going to be nonexistant, we’re going to eliminate the drug problem. … But I do genuinely care about the county and the people. … We have [been addressing] the drug epidemic, in fact about a year ago we had a special grand jury for all the drug arrests we made. But all of you know that arrest is not the solution for the drug problem, it’s everyone’s responsibility to address the drug issue in this county, in our state. … We’ve made a lot of progress in the past four years and I want to continue that in the next four years to come.”

Bill Laird – West Virginia Senate –

I’ve had the opportunity throughout my lifetime to have some wonderful public service opportunities,” said Laird. “I’ve been told that in modern day politics that would should not tout their experience but … I’ve never shied away from my fundamental belief that you need to elect some people that have some idea about what they’re doing. I would submit and maintain that I have a wealth of experience in my years of public service. … My message is what’s fundamental to my re-engagement [in politics after leaving in 2016] and my campaign to begin with – I need to be on the floor of the state senate supporting my good friend [Senator] Stephen Baldwin, just as I did with my dear friend Ron Miller. I don’t know what you have in the water here in Greenbrier County but you sure produce quality representation.”

Mary Ann Claytor – West Virginia Auditor –

The auditor is the official bookkeeper for West Virginia,” explained Claytor. “It’s also the supervisor of public offices. … We preform the audits of local governments, that’s municipalities, your county governments, your school boards. … There’s a very important function that primarily deals with accounting and auditing and I am the only candidate running for state auditor that actually has an accounting degree and over 20 years of experience being a real auditor. … Has anybody had a supervisor that you wonder ‘how in the world did they get that job when they don’t understand the functions under them? That’s the situation we’re in politically [under John B. McCuskey].”

Cindy Lavender Bowe – West Virginia House of Delegates –

I’m very proud to serve with Senator Baldwin and my colleague in the House, Jeff Campbell,” Bowe said. “We work very well together, we community well, and one of the accomplishments I’ve been apart of and been the most proud of in my short time was working with Senator Baldwin for the first time in history to have a joint platform between the House of Delegates and the West Virginia Senate. That came about with a lot of behind the scenes work, a lot of compromise, a lot of listening and a lot of communication. That’s what it takes to be an effective legislator. It doesn’t take being angry, it doesn’t take supporting Donald Trump. That doesn’t make a difference in the legislature of West Virginia. What makes a difference are folks who are willing to listen, folks who are ready to work together and folks who are willing to be in touch our community and that’s what I try to do everyday.”

Jeff Campbell – West Virginia House of Delegates –

I think we’ve got a great team here legislatively in Greenbrier County,” said Campbell. “Senator Baldwin, soon-to-be Senator Laird, myself, and Cindy Lavender-Bowe. We all get along well, we work well together and I think we will be a great team starting in 2021. This election is important from a legislative standpoint – there’s one issue that I think is really going to rear it’s head again … and that’s the business and inventory tax. The Republicans are trying to eliminate that [and if they do], how’s that [lost revenue] going to be covered? It’s going to passed onto us through property tax hikes and we can’t afford that.”

Sam Petsonk – West Virginia Attorney General –

I’m running to serve as the Attorney General,” said Petsonk. “That’s the people’s lawyer, the counsel to the agencies of the state, and our Attorney General [Patrick Morrisey] has gotten West Virginia into a lawsuit that would eliminate health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of West Virginians, and that’s in the middle of the addiction crisis. … We have a healthcare crisis is our state, we have an addiction crisis in our state and [if] our attorney general win his lawsuit and if he wins this office, there will be hundreds of thousands of West Virginians who will lose their health insurance and we cannot afford for that to happen.”

Natalie Tennent – West Virginia Secretary of State –

I know how to save money and be efficient and offer that innovation in spades because I saved millions of dollars and gave it back to you, the taxpayers,” said Tennant. “Folks want to say ‘Natalie is just running to take back the Secretary of State’s office.’ Nope. I’m running to take us forward, this current Secretary of State has already taken us backward. … I started the one-stop-shop, [which] brings together all [four major] state agencies that you really, definitely need to get your business started. I had the blueprint in place and all the plans in place and [Warner] still has not gotten three agencies in this one stop portal. He’s a coming soon type of Secretary of State.”

Bob Beech – West Virginia Commissioner for Agriculture –

Agriculture is economic development. … Right now we really don’t have anyone in the office that recognizes that opportunity,” said Beech. “… I believe that I bring a different perspective than what our current commissioner brings. Our current commissioner moved into the state, bought a farm for the solely purpose of running for commissioner of agriculture. He operated that farm just long enough to put his name on the ballot and challenge for that position. My perspective is from … being raised on a farm, in a farming community, with a farming family, 200 head of cattle, 30 or 40 head of hogs, 20 to 40 acres of field corn. … I have a hands on perspective my opponent doesn’t have.”

Ben Salando – West Virginia Governor –

We need a governor that puts your business ahead of his own business,” said Salando. “We need a governor who’s about public service and not self-service. That’s why I decided to run. Everywhere I go … people say they want a governor who’s going to focus on them, not someone who’s going to take part of the 1.2 billion in CARES Act money and use it to patch pot holes instead of making our schools safe. … When I received calls from southern West Virginia, a little town called Gary, [saying] they didn’t have water … They had called the governor’s office repeatedly and got no response. … I loaded up my truck with 2,400 pounds of water, took it to Gary, … and passed it out. The very next day, the governor called it politics and, also, the very next day, a federal judge ruled that the governor and his companies had violated the Clean Water Act over 3,000 times. We need a governor who is not actually playing politics.”

Hillary Turner – House of Representatives, West Virginia’s 3rd District –

[West Virginia is] one of the most beautiful states in the entire country and it’s a state that’s filled with amazing and hard working people but we have been continuously left behind by a corrupt political system,” said Turner. “That’s why I running, because I see so many issues that we are facing, from extreme poverty to polluted water to crumbling infrastructure, underfunded schools. … I worked as a teacher, I know what it’s like to be underpaid as a teacher. … I pledged not to take corporate PAC dollars … because I’m running to serve the people of West Virginia. … My opponent, Carol Miller, she’s gained a reputation for not returning phone calls, for not speakings to her constituents, not showing up for town hall meetings. … She’s not representing us – she voted against … aid for our people. She voted against extra funding for unemployment and then she used this health crisis to funnel millions of federal tax dollars into her own family business. … This woman in a multi-millionaire, she probably hasn’t worked an honest day’s worth of work in her life. … We have people struggling, people facing homelessness and eviction. That’s not right. That’s not the kind of representative I will be.”