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West Virginia Democrats aim to rebuild party expectations at state convention

By Esteban Fernandez, Times West Virginian

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kathryn Prather and Rylee Birkett both sit at the end of a long table at the back of the South Hall within the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center on June 14.

A sparse number of Democratic delegates mingle in loose clusters around the cavernous hall. It’s only four p.m., but by 6:30 p.m., the hall will be full. For now, people are still filing in for the 2024 West Virginia Democratic Party State Convention. Prather and Birkett traveled three hours from Ohio County to be here. They are both 18, recently graduated from high school and are in the first summer of their lives as adults.

“I’m not entirely sure we know what we’re getting into, if I’m honest,” Prather said. “Not that it was a spur of the moment decision to show up. I’ve thought about it more and more this time but initially, it was like, ‘sure I’ll go.’ So, I think we’re really just here to see what happens.”

Prather and Birkett enter the convention at a time when a lot of Democrats in the state are wondering what happens next with the party. The party is at a nadir, with the State voting heavily Republican for the last 10 years. Former President Donald Trump, recently convicted for hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels prior to the 2016 election, won the state in 2016 and 2020.

However, state Democrats have something brewing for the 2024 election this year. While state Republicans chose against holding a state convention this year, and the Republican-controlled legislature voted to change the law mandating presidential electors be selected at state conventions, Democrats are holding their first in-person convention in 8 years.

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