Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Blue America's First Gubernatorial Endorsement Of 2020: Stephen Smith, West Virginia


West Virginia gubernatorial candidate Stephen Smith is a West Virginia native, lifelong organizer, and public servant. And, as of today, Blue America's first endorsed candidate for governor for the 2020 election cycle. Last year, WV Living magazine named Stephen "West Virginian of the Year" for his consistent work in fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with poor and working families as the Director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition. He grew up in a tight-knit West Virginia family, one that had the means to support him to attend college at Harvard University. His experience at school quickly taught him about our rigged economic system-- and about how to fight for change. He tells us that the hallmark of his time at college was helping to organize a 21-day student sit-in that brought about a living wage for Harvard janitors, food service workers, and security guards. His track record has extended from there.

After moving back to his hometown in 2012, and prior to his bid for Governor, Stephen helped to build dozens of powerful local and statewide institutions. Under his leadership at the Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, the group organized hundreds of rural development projects and more than two dozen successful issue campaigns. When the national teachers strike started in West Virginia in 2018, Stephen helped build a Strike Fund that raised and distributed $332,000 to teachers and their families.

Smith, with his nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic, is running a massive field operation against the richest man in West Virginia, Jim Justice. A Trumpist coal baron and casino owner known for literally sitting down on the job. Justice, who was elected as a fake Democrat only to switch to the GOP almost immediately, was recently dubbed Forbes Magazine’s Deadbeat Billionaire.

Goal ThermometerToday, the stage is set. And don’t be fooled; West Virginia is a place that is ripe for revolution. Not only did the Teachers Strike start in West Virginia; Bernie outpolls Trump 48-46 in the Mountain State. When West Virginians voted in 2016, they didn’t pick a party, they picked a fight. And Smith and his team are poised to channel that righteous outrange into a winning people’s campaign. As Smith says, "we’ve done it before." In fact, the thing we like most about Smith’s campaign is its connection to successful, multi-racial rebellions of the past: namely West Virginia's rich labor history. Check out his unique, inspiring campaign video above. If you’re not sold yet, keep an eye out for the more than 59 candidates who Smith and his team have already recruited as a part of a West Virginia Can’t Wait candidate pipeline. That’s right, the Smith team is building a slate to run alongside Stephen. West Virginia is preparing for the contest of a generation. Here’s our chance to get in and show solidarity.

Why I’m Running
-by Stephen Smith, stephen@wvcantwait.com

You can feel it. This is a moment. Every 50 years or so, the nation turns to West Virginia for leadership. The American revolution started here. The Civil War, the Mine Wars, the Teachers’ Strike-- it is in our blood to fight for our people, no matter their race, their accent, or who their father was.

My name is Stephen Smith and I’m running for Governor, because I want my sons to know whose side I was on.

West Virginians may have the least, but we give the most. In West Virginia, we always hear that we’re last. But we are near the top for charitable giving, for military service, for volunteer service. We’re #1 in the amount of time we spend with our neighbors.

That’s the kind of family I grew up in-– my dad helped start the WV Coalition for the Homeless and the Public Defender Services. My mom made our house the kind of place that always had extra people in it-- foster kids, neighbors, family members who were between jobs.

I took the values I learned at home to Harvard and raised hell for working families. For four years, students and workers fought together, and we won a living wage for the janitors, cooks, and security guards. Since then, I’ve spent my career shoulder to shoulder with people who are fighting for their dignity. Seven years ago, my wife Sara and I chose to move home to West Virginia, because we wanted to raise our family in a place that cares more about who you serve than what you own.

The West Virginia organization I led for the last six years helped pass more than two dozen pieces of legislation, using old fashioned people power: health insurance for 182,000, a raise in the minimum wage, 5.2 million more school breakfasts annually. Meanwhile we lifted-up more than 300 community projects. We helped build gardens, after-school programs, and small businesses. All this happened not because of me, or because we had a lot of money, but because we knew that no one is more capable or more creative than the people who are closest to a problem.

The idea of this campaign is simple: what if the values of generosity, common sense, and courage that guided our neighborhoods also governed our statehouse?

This is the richest time in West Virginia history. Our people deserve to have the best roads and safest water we have ever had. We deserve universal, single payer health care and child care and higher education for all. We deserve an economy rigged in favor of unions, small businesses, artists, family farms, and local entrepreneurs – not out-of-state landowners and monopolies.

I’m running because the only way we get that kind of government is if we take it. No outside company or billionaire politician will save us.

We need a thousand leaders, not one.

Here’s the thing. The people of West Virginia are not America’s problem. We are her solution.

Some of you think we “vote against our own interests.” But Good Old Boy Democrats held power here for 82 years, while wages fell, jobs vanished, and our divorce, obesity, and overdose rates soared. We’re not wrong to question whether the party has had our interests at heart.

Some of you think we’re backwards. But it was our teachers and school service personnel who sparked a nationwide strike movement last year. And this February, our educators walked out again-- this time to reject an “education reform” bill that would have paid them the raise they were after-- because they knew the bill would make things worse for our kids by privatizing schools.

Some of you call our home Trump Country. But more of us opted not to vote in 2016 than voted for the President. A 2017 poll of likely voters revealed that we favor Bernie over Trump, 48 to 46 percent. In West Virginia, we are rejecting a political establishment that rejected us long ago.

We’re not foolish. We’re fed up.

And we’re taking action. Never in American history has a single person or politician won the sort of change we need and deserve. It has always required a movement, not a savior. That’s what we are building in West Virginia. It is called West Virginia Can’t Wait, and we need your help. Our movement already recruited and trained 160 County Captains across all 55 Counties-- who have executed 65 kickoffs and town halls, and more than 270 additional meetings in food pantries, clinics, small businesses, churches, and union halls.

We have recruited more than 120 Constituency Captains, who are leading 37 constituency teams-- Veterans Can’t Wait, Students Can’t Wait, Seniors Can’t Wait, LGBTQ Can’t Wait, Educators Can’t Wait People in Recovery Can’t Wait, and so on. Their building independent political power across the state, while also preparing us to govern. Because the people who are closest to the problem are also best equipped to solve it.

Finally, our movement is also recruiting candidates up and down the ballot who reject corporate cash and pledge never to cross a picket line. There are 57 in our pipeline, and we are adding more each week. We offer these mostly first-time, mostly women candidates free training, access to our network and staff, and the power of running together.

You need money to run for office. And our fundraising works. We raised more than $152,000 in our first quarter and literally broke the Secretary of State’s on-line software system because our file upload of individual donations was too large to handle. Furthermore, we have pledged that at least 1 out of every $10 we raise in this campaign will be spent on real projects that improve lives before election day-- so that voters get to know us by our actions, and not just our words.

I’ve never achieved anything in my life by myself, and I’m not starting now. I hope you’ll join us. West Virginia can’t wait.

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At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If he's being honest, this could prove to be an interesting race to watch.

At 10:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

America turns to WV? To mock stupid white people maybe. can't think of a single other reason.

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

I hope Stephen wins i wish him luck Jim Justice is a total fraud.

At 5:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stephen is probably one of the most honest, hardworking, enthusiastic individuals I have ever met. He is the real deal! Come to one of his events in your area, and learn for yourself what this movement is all about!


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