Editorial Roundup: West Virginia

Charleston Gazette-Mail. February 21, 2024.

Editorial: Manchin nixing presidential bid was right call

It was probably a tough decision, but Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., made the right call when he announced last week that he won’t seek the presidency on a third-party ticket.

Manchin is good at winning elections. Excepting a primary upset for governor in the 1990s, he’s succeeded whenever his name has been on the ballot. He had to win twice in his early days as a senator, first winning a special election following the death of then-Sen. Robert C. Byrd in 2010, then winning his first full term in 2012.

As West Virginia has turned deep red and given massive support to Donald Trump and other far-right politicians and ideals, Manchin remains the only Mountain State Democrat holding any office of significance at the state or federal level. He was even able to hold off a challenge from Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in 2018, despite Trump campaigning hard for the latter.

Manchin obviously had doubts about holding onto his seat for another term this year, which had to be one of the reasons he decided not to run again. He also probably knew a third-party bid for president, for which he would’ve been a top pick, had no chance of going anywhere.

In the age of polarizing politics, Manchin remains a centrist, which makes him beloved and hated by both Republicans and Democrats, depending on the day. His moderate approach is not a pose or facade — it’s who Manchin really is. As a result, Manchin has a lot of appeal among Democrats who think the party has drifted too far left and old-school Republicans who don’t buy into culture war politics, refuse to believe Trump’s lies about the 2020 election and view the former president as a legitimate threat to small “d” democracy.

The question is whether enough of those voters exist to make a third-party run viable in an election where one candidate is viewed as a dangerous lunatic unfit for office and the incumbent is perceived to be too old to keep doing the job. The answer, apparently, is no. Manchin likely would have siphoned votes from Trump and President Joe Biden, although pundits believe he would’ve damaged Biden’s campaign more.

Manchin said he didn’t want to play spoiler to anyone, which he would have done had he entered the presidential race.

With age as a topic of focus in the upcoming presidential election, it’s worth mentioning that Manchin is 76, only five years younger than Biden, and Trump’s junior by a year. As “Talkine” host Hoppy Kercheval put it, Manchin “wears (his age) well,” compared to Trump and Biden. Still, it’s possible Manchin doesn’t want to spend his latter years putting himself through the Washington meat grinder, which absolutely takes a toll on every politician’s mental and physical health.

Whatever his rationale, and whatever one thinks of the current presidential candidates, Manchin made the right decision for himself and, possibly, the nation.


Herald-Dispatch. February 15, 2024.

Editorial: Colleges can help students with food aid, but Senate bill could be too much

Student body representatives from Marshall University and West Virginia University told state legislators Tuesday that too many students don’t have enough to eat. Schools are taking steps to deal with the problem, but more can be done, they said.

Their comments came as the Senate Education Committee considered Senate Bill 292, which creates the Hunger-Free Campus Act and requires the state Higher Education Policy Commission to establish a Hunger Free Campus Grant program to provide grants to state institutions of higher education that meet the requirements of a “hunger-free campus.”

Among other things, SB 292 would require schools to have a campus hunger task force that meets at least three times per year and sets at least two goals with action plans; designate a staff member responsible for assisting students with enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; and participate in an awareness day campaign activity and planning a campus awareness event during the National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

Walker Tatum, student body president at Marshall, said in fall 2022, 28.5% of students participating in a survey indicated some level of food insecurity, and 15% skipped or thought about skipping a meal for financial reasons, according to the presentation.

Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, wasn’t impressed.

“I appreciate the intentions of the folks that came, but I think this is essentially nanny state stuff,” said Azinger, who shared that he lost 20 pounds during his first year of college and, “I didn’t eat; I didn’t have food all the time.

“I think what we’re doing here, probably unintentionally, but we’re creating a victim group, I think, of people who are just experiencing the normal hardships of life,” he said. “You go to college, sometimes you don’t have food, sometimes you get hungry. That’s life. ... It builds character.”

Despite Azinger’s objections, the committee moved the bill on to the full Senate for a vote.

Azinger’s frustration is understandable, and his language may have been excessive, but he does make a point. If a student lives off campus, how much responsibility does a school bear to ensure the student has enough food?

This doesn’t minimize the fact some students do go hungry. The question is whether the paperwork requirements of SB 292 go beyond what is reasonable to expect universities to do. It’s logical for students to ask the Legislature for help.

Universities already offer food help to students through food banks and other programs. It’s clear that more can be done to encourage students to take advantage of all resources available to them without requiring even more paperwork that must be filled out and filed away.

If nothing else, SB 292 has brought attention to a problem facing college students. It may go too far in its attempt to solve that problem, but amendments on the Senate floor could address that. For now, SB 292 has let the public know this problem exists.


The Intelligencer. February 19, 2024.

Editorial: Making Positive Change in W.Va.

West Virginians often take pride in their families, and the roots they have in the Mountain State. Many of us look back fondly on wonderful childhoods here. But perhaps the picture is not as rosy as we remember.

According to WalletHub’s “Best and Worst States to Raise a Family (2024),” West Virginia ranks 48th. Only Mississippi and New Mexico are worse places to raise a family, according to the report.

“It’s crucial to consider economic factors when deciding where to raise a family, like the job market, average income and housing costs,” said WalletHub analyst Cassandra Happe. “It’s also important to look beyond dollars and cents, as things like low-quality schools, a bad healthcare system, natural disasters, or a high crime rate can turn the already-stressful process of parenting into a nightmare.”

Here, we rank 50th for family fun, 28th for health and safety, 44th for education and child care, 42nd for affordability, and 32nd for socioeconomics. It’s a pretty bleak picture. West Virginia is 49th for median family income, 50th for the number of families with young kids, and 47th for the number of families in poverty.

To be fair, that 50th ranking may say more about what the researchers consider family fun than what we do here in West Virginia. Outdoor recreational opportunities abound. Perhaps they base their findings on the number of trampoline parks or rodent-inspired pizza places to be found in the state.

But on crucial matters such as health, education and poverty, policymakers have a lot of work to do.

Lawmakers have just a few weeks left in this year’s session — enough time to make a difference for all West Virginians. They should focus on legislation that will bring about change that will make more families want to consider moving and growing here.

They should focus on improving educational and health outcomes for our children.

They should stay away from culture war issues and instead prioritize making life better for all West Virginians.

Certainly, the picture painted by the numbers used in WalletHub’s report, combined with the frightening efforts of some lawmakers will continue to repel those who might want to visit or live in West Virginia. The rest of us must make those lawmakers understand we will not stand by and let it happen.