EDITOR’S NOTEPAD: Mitch Gets Moved & WV Can’t Wait Begins a Movement

“Ditch Mitch” started as a chant and song. Now, it’s a reality for soon-to-be former WV Senate leader Mitch Carmichael. | Colorized photo.

EDITOR’S NOTEPAD: june10.2020

Way back in 2018, in a pre-pandemic time that seems like another age entirely, there was a massive teachers’ strike in West Virginia. The massed forces of thousands of teachers and school personnel went on a notable strike that was covered by the national and international press.

The strike, which lasted from Feb. 22 to March 6, 2018, saw teachers and other school staff descend en masse on West Virginia’s capitol complex. Their ire was especially focused on W.Va. Senate President Mitch Carmichael, a charter school supporter and paltry-pay raise proponent, among other issues.

I don’t wish to re-litigate the issues of the strike, which I reported on—visually—in my role as Charleston Gazette-Mail social media video producer.

One of the refrains of the strike was to “Remember in November” and to boot Carmichael from office. There was even a song about it, performed by Emily Jo Tanzey, titled “Move Mitch, Get Out the Way.” Here’s an excerpt:

“Move Mitch, Get Out the Way” video excerpt, performed by Emily Jo Tanzey.

And yesterday West Virginians did indeed “move Mitch out the way.” And sweet justice and pass the corn-on-the-cob, he was ousted by an elementary school teacher. As a story by Caity Coyne describes it in today’s June 10.2020 Charleston Gazette-Mail:

Amy Nichole Grady, a teacher from Leon, defeated incumbent Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, in Tuesday’s primary election. Grady, a teacher at Leon Elementary School in Mason County, totaled 6,402 votes to Carmichael’s 5,762 votes …

In 2018 and 2019, Carmichael drew heavy criticism from educators and school service personnel across the state during teacher strikes. He was a proponent of establishing charter schools in the state, and protesters — regularly chanting “Ditch Mitch” outside chamber doors — accused him of not listening to educators when it came to the legislation


Voters also gave the heave-ho to Del. Eric Porterfield, whose reprehensible remarks and behavior (he compared LGBTQ folk to the KKK among his greatest hits) brought embarrassment to the state and to whatever decorum yet exists in the statehouse. It’s a relief to soon be able to say “former Del. Porterfield.”

W.Va. Still Can’t Wait

Colorized WestVirginiaVille.com photograph of Stephen Smith.

It is worth noting something about the 2020 West Virginia primary, as it featured several disappointments for those of us who support systemic, groundbreaking change in West Virginia’s molasses-slow progression into more enlightened politics.

Change can happen and the state’s voters can clean House (and Senate). Witness the two elections cited above. But the biggest housecleaning effort fell short yesterday. For the moment, at least.

The ambitious “W.Va. Can’t Wait” campaign of Stephen Smith came in second to former Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salongo in the gubernatorial race. There will be time later for post-mortems and second-guesses galore of how he and his campaign might have better couched their attempt to storm the ramparts of “the good ole’ boy network,” as the campaign repeatedly framed things.

Here’s why we endorsed Stephen Smith.

But on this day of sore disappointment, especially for the many young people deeply and hopefully invested in Smith’s campaign, we have only this to say: Bravo to Smith, his audacious campaign, and its many volunteers spread across 55 counties.

In the good news, a goodly chunk of “W.Va. Can’t Wait”-backed candidates made it across the Democratic primary finish line. What happens next is a short-term test of how resilient and strong the structure is of what Smith and his backers dubbed a “movement.”

Get those folks elected come November 2020. The long-term test of that hoped-for movement is what follows afterward.

Movements move things.

Sometimes, they appear to stall—like the dream of launching on your first try a sharp, whip-smart, charismatic young candidate into the governor’s mansion. It’s a measure of whether your movement has legs as to how well you keep at it in the face of a keenly-felt loss. And also that you keep at it in an organized, clear-eyed way.

Plus, that you’re be willing to learn from what didn’t work. And what did.

But in the meantime, take a break, Stephen Smith and all the many folks who made “W.Va. Can’t Wait” happen. Turn off your cellphones. Get out of your screens. Get in the garden. Don’t read the news. Go on a CDC-approved, socially distant vacation.

You really deserve a break today.

You done good.

And when you’re all ready, keep on keeping on. The work is clear: the absolutely necessary fight to take back West Virginia from corporate and out-of-state interests. And to oust the many co-opted, corrupted in-state interests.

Keep that movement moving.

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