By JOSELYN KING
The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register
WHEELING, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin is asking constituents what affects their families the most as he gears up for a 2018 re-election bid.
— ensuring access to quality, affordable health care;
— creating “good-paying jobs;”
— combating prescription drug abuse
— achieving fiscal responsibility;
— focusing on an all-of-the-above energy strategy; or
— keeping “our promises” to seniors and veterans.
“My ongoing service to you is my top priority, and I will never let politics or ideology stand in the way of common sense solutions,” Manchin states in the letter.
“This is a critical time for West Virginia and for our country, and your continued support and partnership will be essential to my campaign’s success in the weeks and months ahead. I want to hear from you about what issues matter most to you.”
West Virginia Democratic Party Chairwoman Belinda Biafore said she thinks it’s “a wonderful idea” that Manchin’s running for re-election.
“He’s been a champion through this health care battle, and we have him to thank him for being the only one to stand up for West Virginia,” she said. “He’s not afraid to get out and to talk to people. I’m happy to support him.”
Biafore said jobs and the economy are the most pressing issues facing West Virginians.
“If you can get people back to work … it solves a lot of issues before us,” she said. “It helps health care if we get people back to work. It helps lower drugs and opiate use if people are back to work. When people are working, they feel better.”
Ohio County Democratic Party Co-Chairman George Fahey said he wasn’t surprised Manchin is running for re-election.
“I figured he would, even if we haven’t had any contact from his office,” Fahey said. “I’ve heard rumors … there could be somebody else running on the Democrat side. But I have to personally say no. He plays politics pretty well. He’s good for going right down the middle, and saying whatever anybody wants to hear.”
Manchin has “done a lot of good things, a lot of things people don’t agree with,” according to Fahey.
“And I don’t think anyone would have the bankroll to challenge him,” he said.
The second Ohio County Democratic Party co-chair, county Commissioner Orphy Klempa, echoed Biafore’s words that Manchin’s seeking re-election was “a wonderful idea.”
“He represents the people of West Virginia perfectly,” he said. “When you talk West Virginia, you talk Manchin. He knows West Virginia, the pulse of the state, and what it takes to move West Virginia forward. That’s the key. What’s good for West Virginia is good for Joe Manchin, and that’s what he takes to Washington.”
Environmental activist Paula Jean Swearingen of Coal City, W.Va. has indicated she will run on the Democratic ticket, but Klempa doesn’t think any Democratic opponent of Manchin would have the opportunity to establish enough name recognition prior to next year’s primary election.
U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey have announced they will run for the Senate seat in 2018 on the Republican ticket.
West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas said he expects the GOP nominee will be successful against Manchin.
“He has close alliances to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and that won’t soon be forgotten in West Virginia,” Lucas said. “I fully expect the Republican nominee will win next November.”
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