This past week's (Aug. 28, 2010) primary election to determine the candidates who will vie for the seat of the late Robert C. Byrd, had no surprises in terms of the winners.
Joe Manchin and John Raese walked away with the Democratic and Republican nominations and will face each other in November for the right to serve out the last two years of Byrd's seat.
Anyone could have predicted that final outcome.
But what is fascinating is that 95-year-old Ken Hechler was the number three vote-getter state-wide.
Hechler, a former member of President Harry Truman's White House staff, a long-time Congressman and former secretary of state for the State of West Virginia, received more than 16,000 votes, about one-fourth of what Joe Manchin got.
Hechler's campaign, he said, was not about getting him elected to the U.S. Senate. Even he knows he's too old for that job. When he announced his candidacy, he said he was running to give the voters of the Mountain State an opportunity to speak out against the mountaintop removal of coal.
He wanted to send a message to Joe Manchin that not everyone in the state is in favor of this controversial way to remove coal from our mountains.
You might scoff at the number of votes that Hechler received. But if he had put any money behind his candidacy and gotten that message out to more voters, those numbers could have been much higher.
Mind you, Manchin was going to win the Democratic nomination. There was never any question about that. But if you believe it's possible to send a message to a candidate, even when that candidate is on his way to a landslide victory, then Hechler's effort may not have been in vain.
Coal has been a major part of West Virginia's past. It's a major part of its present. It will continue to be a player into the future. I'm not in any way anti-coal. But if we, as West Virginians, do not recognize the value of our natural resources and our people and look more aggressively for ways to better utilize them in the future, we will always be left behind, wondering what happened when the coal ran out , when the coal companies left, and the environment was destroyed.
I hope Joe Manchin was listening when those voters cast their ballots…more about an issue than a man.
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