Howard Swint: Environmental voters may hold sway in 2nd District

By By Howard Swint

In an epic political twist, West Virginia’s 2nd congressional district race could be determined by a small minority of voters that hold environmental issues as their top priority.

At least that is the conclusion that could be drawn from a Tarrance Group survey that has independent candidate Ed Rabel garnering support of fully 10 percent of prospective voters with Democratic stalwart Nick Casey at 29 percent and Maryland Republican Alex Mooney with 39 percent.

The first caveat is that the Tarrance Group is a self-styled “Republican strategic research and polling firm” based in Washington.

The second is, as Eastern Panhandle activist Russell Mokhiber reports, “the poll was commissioned by the Mooney campaign and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).”

So, the polling numbers should be discounted accordingly.

However, as Mooney’s surprising primary election upset of highly-qualified, in-state candidates proves, Washington money talks, especially in a state where the average adult education level is high school and four-fifths of eligible voters didn’t vote.

Accordingly, it can be concluded that it is well within the realm of possibility that yet another out-of-state, opportunistic candidate could pull off a general election upset using the same playbook as Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

Despite Morrisey’s nothing-in-common-whatsoever-with-West Virginia-pedigree of New York City and Rutgers University, he demonstrated conclusively that elections in the Mountain State could easily be bought with special interest money.

All it took, generally speaking, was a play on religious conservatives with all of the familiar refrains that resonate with the other one-fifth of those who actually vote.

But ironically, in the upcoming 2nd congressional district race, the 10 percent swing vote held by Rabel could actually decide the outcome between Casey and Mooney placing the environmental community squarely in the unfamiliar role of picking the winner.

Let’s face it, native son Ed Rabel and his platform are the exact opposite of that of candidate Mooney, and Rabel’s good-government position on issues make him the easy selection for a meaningful protest vote especially as it relates to the abolition of mountaintop removal mining.

But as the last campaign of former Congressman and Secretary of State Ken Heckler instructed, protest votes based on environmental and clean money issues are just that.

As for Democratic nominee Nick Casey, his professional and charity work has probably done more for our state, and his alma maters Charleston Catholic and West Virginia University, than anyone living and reason enough to support this other native son on those merits alone.

That he could lose to what may prove to be yet another in a series of out-of-state, opportunistic political hacks with Washington money would be a tragedy and signal a tidal wave of more of their ilk to come to West Virginia to buy an elections on the cheap.

Thus, environmentally conscious voters could well find themselves in the rarified air of deciding who’ll represent West Virginia’s 2nd congressional district.

They can lodge a protest vote with a respectable good government candidate and almost ensure that his carpetbagger Republican opponent gets elected or look for what may be precious little common ground on environmental issues and support the Democratic nominee.

With these voters squarely in the crosshairs the only other alternative rests with Casey building on this common ground — convincingly enough to win a seat in Congress.

Here’s hope that he does.

Howard Swint is a commercial

property broker in Charleston.

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