Hillary Clinton is the choice of most West Virginia Democratic political leaders who have a role in choosing the party’s presidential nominee.
Six of West Virginia’s eight “super delegates” will be supporting the former secretary of state, who has a big lead among pledged delegates, when they cast their votes at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.
West Virginia has 37 delegates to the convention, with 29 of those awarded based on the results of the Tuesday presidential primary. The remaining eight, the super delegates, are party leaders who are not bound by the voters’ choice next week.
West Virginia’s Democratic super delegates are Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Sen. Joe Manchin, party chairwoman Belinda Biafore, vice-chairman Chris Regan, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, state Treasurer John Perdue, Charleston lawyer Pat Maroney, and Elaine Harris, a union leader for the Communications Workers of America.
Six are supporting Clinton, barring some unforeseen and highly unlikely circumstances. Regan is supporting Sanders. Harris has not publicly announced her support and did not respond to several phone and email messages.
Below is some information and thoughts from each super delegate on their choice for the Democratic nomination.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin
Speaking before former President Bill Clinton at a rally in his native Logan County on Sunday, Tomblin was all but drowned out by booing hecklers, a small but loud minority of the crowd inside Logan Middle School.
Outside the event were many more protesters.
Tomblin called Bill Clinton the “greatest president of our generation” and said, “Democrats have always been there for West Virginia and we remain committed to helping our people realize the bright future they have in this state and in this nation.”
He had endorsed Hillary Clinton just two days before the event with her husband.
“She is the best choice to unite the Democratic Party and, after being elected president in November, our country,” Tomblin said in a prepared statement. “I have had discussions with former President Bill Clinton and representatives from Secretary Clinton’s campaign and believe Hillary Clinton is committed to working with us to diversify West Virginia’s economy while continuing to find ways to use our abundant coal and natural gas to power the nation.”
Sen. Joe Manchin
Manchin endorsed Clinton more than a year ago, saying he thought Clinton could win West Virginia in the general election, something that even he admits today is unlikely.
“Hillary’s been here, she’s done extremely well in the primary here before, and I think that you’ll see her come to West Virginia, connect with the people,” Manchin said a year ago.
She did come here. Whether she “connected” or not ... Well, she tried.
Like her husband, Clinton was met with throngs of protesters when she visited the southern coalfields this week. Manchin, along with her, was met with boos and shouts of “Traitor Joe.”
He has repeatedly cited his long friendship with the Clintons as a reason for his support, especially in the wake of negative remarks she made on the coal industry that Republicans have pounced on.
Manchin said he’s known the Clintons for 25 years and they were among the first to call him when he was governor after mine disasters at Sago, Aracoma and Upper Big Branch.
“When you have a friend, you’re willing to say ‘let’s sit down and work through our differences, let’s really talk about it,’” Manchin said last Sunday in Logan, as protesters stood outside. “No matter what they might think out there or what they’re saying, we have a friend.”
Democratic Party Chairwoman Belinda Biafore
Biafore was a super delegate in 2008 and supported Clinton, and she does again this year.
The Clinton campaign announced Biafore’s support in January, the day after Regan endorsed Sanders.
“I just like the experience that she brings, I think she’s a fighter for things that we need in West Virginia,” Biafore said last week.
She recalled a specific interview that Clinton had given during this year’s campaign.
“When she talked about foreign policy, it just came so natural to her, she knew so much about it and I said that’s somebody who would make a great leader,” Biafore said. She added that she liked Sanders, and likes the things he has to say, but “he’s got the ideas, but he doesn’t have the plan to pay for them or see them through.”
Democratic Party Vice-Chairman Chris Regan
The lone Sanders supporter among West Virginia’s super delegates, Regan announced his endorsement in January, the day before Clinton’s campaign announced the endorsement of four other West Virginia super delegates.
“The concerns of middle-class families, including health care, tuition and a rising wage for honest work must be our focus in 2016, not just here in West Virginia, but across the country,” Regan said in a prepared statement in January. “We cannot afford leadership corrupted by corporate money any longer. I endorse Bernie Sanders’ message, his values and his unparalleled commitment to taking our country back from the billionaire class.”
While Clinton’s remarks about coal have drawn fire, Sanders is more forceful in his calls to move away from fossil fuels and has called for a ban on natural gas fracking.
“Forty and 50 years ago, at the absolute height of coal employment in West Virginia, President Johnson and President Kennedy visited our state and found crushing poverty,” Regan said during a Sanders campaign conference call last week. “So it has not been the solution and it is not going to be the solution. We need a new economy here in West Virginia and Sen. Sanders is pointing the way towards it.”
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant
Tennant is a super delegate by virtue of her role as chairwoman of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, and the Clinton campaign announced her support in January. She was a delegate (not a super delegate) for Clinton in 2008, before Clinton released her delegates to then-Sen. Barack Obama.
She said she would be casting her super delegate vote for Clinton this year, barring the extraordinarily unlikely event of Clinton, who has a large lead in pledged delegates, releasing her delegates to Sanders.
She cited the likely general election match-up as a reason for supporting Clinton.
“I can’t allow my daughter to see or to believe that it’s OK to treat women and say things about women the way Donald Trump has said things about women,” Tennant said Wednesday. “I think for a lot of people who will start looking at this after the primary election, it will come down to that.”
Treasurer John Perdue
Like Tennant, Perdue is a super delegate not specifically because of his elected office, but because of his roll with the National Association of State Treasurers.
The Clinton campaign also announced Perdue’s support in January.
“While I was upset and disappointed with Secretary Clinton’s recent comments regarding coal, I still believe she will work to protect the health care and pensions of our coal miners,” Perdue said in a prepared statement last week. “I grew up in coal country and have always fought for our hardworking people. I plan to hold Secretary Clinton and her husband to their word that they will work to create jobs and sustain our economy in the southern coalfields. Based on the current field of candidates, she is the most qualified person for the Democratic nomination.”
Maroney has been a member of the Democratic National Committee since 2005 and is a past chairman of the state Democratic Party.
He supported Clinton as a super delegate in 2008 and will again this year, regardless of the results of Tuesday’s primary, he said.
“I think that she is the most qualified person to be president of the United States, she has both the domestic and the international experience that would be best for West Virginia, best for the United States and best for the world,” Maroney said.
Harris, chairwoman of the Kanawha County Democratic Executive Committee and a member of the Democratic National Committee, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Her union, the Communications Workers of America, endorsed Sanders in December. Harris attended Clinton’s campaign event at the University of Charleston (which was by invitation only) on Tuesday.