Now that Joe Manchin has said he will not run for governor next year, potential candidates for governor and other state offices are announcing their intentions. Some are still in the trial balloon stage. They put their names out as possible candidates to see if there is any support, especially in securing name recognition and raising money.
A person can say he or she is considering a run for office, but nothing is official until papers are filed. The filing period for the 2020 election is Jan. 13-25.
The list of issues in voters’ minds is obvious: Drugs. Public education. Higher education. Roads. Water, sewer and broadband service. Taxes. Jobs. Poverty.
One of the big problems that will need to be addressed by candidates is trust in government. In the past few years, we’ve seen justices on the Supreme Court of Appeals impeached over mismanagement of public money. We have a governor who brought bovine manure into the Capitol to make a point in a dispute with the Legislature. Most important, voters have often seen a state government that is unable or unwilling to deal with the problems mentioned above.
Some of these problems are rooted in culture, in lifestyle or in economic distress. They are beyond the ability of state government to solve in a single 60-day legislative session. Nevertheless, voters want answers and a vision of what government can do about them.
These are more important for some offices than others, of course. There’s not much the state treasurer can do about treatment for opioid addiction, for example, but that person can run the office in a way that inspires trust that the functions of that office will be carried out efficiently and provide good service to taxpayers who need its help.
Statewide, will the candidates for governor and the Legislature offer a vision of what they can do? And can they assure voters that the day-to-day working of state government will be better — that potholes won’t aggravate drivers for months before a patching crew shows up, or that contact with social service offices will be pleasant instead of aggravating or intimidating?
In some games, that is known as the difference between strategy and tactics. One is the broad vision of what needs to be accomplished. The other is what specific steps need to be taken to make that vision become reality.
Here in Huntington, we have a mayoral race and City Council races to decide. Plus each county will elect at least one county commissioner.
When he ran against incumbent President Jimmy Carter in 1980, Republican candidate Ronald Reagan asked a question that summed up the point of his campaign: Are you better off than you were four years ago?
So, is West Virginia better off than it was four years ago? Are Huntington, Cabell County, Wayne County and other areas?
The answer depends on what is important to each individual voter. It likely will spur some people to vote, but it could also drive people away from the polls if they believe their one vote doesn’t matter.
The 13 months between now and Election Day 2020 should give us an indication of how the majority of voters will answer that question.