In 2016, Democrat Glenn Jeffries defeated the incumbent senator, moderate Republican Chris Walters.
Now, seeking re-election for the first time, Jeffries faces a whole different type of opponent: Kathie Hess Crouse.
They’re competing in the 8th state senatorial district, which covers all of Putnam County east of the Kanawha River and all of Kanawha County north of the river and U.S. 119.
On Facebook, Crouse has posted that she refuses to wear masks amid the pandemic. She posted that she went to Walmart without masks and hoped “the mask gestapo are waiting at home for me, I need their help unloading the van.”
“I keep my distance,” she said Monday. “I think that’s a better effort than wearing a mask and I have chosen as a free person in a free society not to wear one.”
She said she would wear one if she were sick. But people can carry it without knowing it.
Also online, she’s criticized needle exchange programs that can help save drug users’ lives, styled concealed carry gun holsters and put Blue Lives Matter flags in her ads.
“You can always count on me to back the blue and stand up to the liberal mobs who want to defund the police,” she says in one ad.
Jeffries says he doesn’t want to “defund the police” and has noted he’s endorsed by the West Virginia Sheriffs’ Association and associations representing deputies and state troopers.
Crouse’s issues page on her website lists just four topics, in this order: supporting the Second Amendment, supporting “school choice,” opposing abortion and supporting “growing our state.” Making West Virginia “more business friendly” is how she proposes reaching that last goal.
“Those are just some of the important issues to me, there are more,” Crouse said Monday. “I haven’t updated my website lately. There’s broadband, there’s taxes.”
Regarding abortion, she says on her site that “I have been pregnant under different circumstances and during different times and places in my life. And I can not for any reason imagine killing a single one of them to make my life better or more bearable.”
In one ad, she says “Democrats always attack what they fear. And they definitely fear me.”
“‘Cause I walk it like I talk it,” she says. “‘Cause I’m a Charleston native who knows how prosperous Putnam and Kanawha counties could be. ‘Cause I homeschooled my son and daughter to make sure they’re ready for the 21st century workspace. ‘Cause I love our country and our state and, most of all, because I’m always packing — even right now.”
She patted her dress as she said that.
Jeffries declined to say what he thinks of Crouse.
“She has every right to run and that’s the great thing about our democracy,” he said.
Jeffries highlighted Monday that he has worked to get clean water to people and businesses, and he wants to continue to do so. He said public water access is needed to attract residents and companies.
“I’m astounded at the amount of people in West Virginia who don’t have public access to get water,” he said.
He sponsored a new law that now allows the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council (IJDC) to give more money to public utilities to complete water and sewer infrastructure projects, rather than just giving them loans they must repay.
Jeffries sponsored another new law that created a “critical needs” account. According to state Water Development Authority Executive Director Marie Prezioso (sister of outgoing Democratic state Sen. Roman Prezioso), the IJDC put $12 million in the account this year, and the law allows this money to more quickly solve residents’ water and sewer emergencies and fund some smaller water line extensions.
Many striking public school workers heard from Crouse, former president of the West Virginia Home Educators Association, amid the 2018 and 2019 education uproars.
She was among the most vocal citizens favoring alternatives to public schools, including charter schools and vouchers called education savings accounts that would give parents public money to home- or private-school their children.
She argued public school workers shouldn’t get a pay raise after they went on strike against a bill that would have advanced those alternatives while also increasing public school funding.
Republicans managed to legalize charter schools over opposition from unions and all the Democrats, including Jeffries. But they didn’t pass the vouchers. Crouse still wants to enact them.
Crouse has criticized Jeffries for his abortion voting record.
Jeffries says on his website that he’s “pro-life.”
In 2018, Jeffries voted against placing Amendment One to the state Constitution on that year’s general election ballot for voters to decide.
Voters ultimately passed the amendment, which added a line saying “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.” Abortion access supporters had opposed the amendment, saying it could allow state lawmakers to more easily pass abortion restrictions in the future.
Jeffries said he voted against putting that on the ballot because there was no provision protecting a mother’s right to an abortion if it was needed to save her life.
He voted this year, alongside every senator in attendance, for the law that explicitly requires doctors to care for babies who are born living despite an attempted abortion. That happening was already essentially impossible due to an already existing late-term abortion ban.
Jeffries also was the lead sponsor of a law that means free early education programs now only have to be offered statewide to all children who are 4 years old by July 1, rather than Sept. 1, of the school year in which their families plan to enroll them.
That effectively delayed access to free prekindergarten for non-special education students, by requiring them to be slightly older. Jeffries previously said he heard from teachers who were concerned children were starting school too early.
Jeffries filed a campaign finance report Friday showing he had raised $188,000, more than six times what Crouse reported raising in her filing last week.
Jeffries reported spending $130,000 so far.
Crouse reported spending $34,000, more than the $29,000 she raised. The bulk of her money came from loaning herself $20,000.
According to her filing, her recent donations have included $1,000 apiece from the state Chamber of Commerce, Alliance Coal PAC (political action committee) and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
Her smaller recent donations included $250 from state Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson.
Earlier donations to Hess included $1,000 from U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., $1,000 from state Senate Finance Committee Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and $1,150 from WV Health Freedom PAC, a group that opposes the current requirement that children be vaccinated to enter public school.
Jeffries’ recent donations have included $1,000 apiece from the PACs for: Humana, Merck, UnitedHealth Group and the American Institute of Architects’ state chapter. He also got $2,000 from the Contractors Association of West Virginia, which represents construction companies.
His smaller recent donations include $250 from Lincoln County’s arm of the American Federation of Teachers union.
Earlier donations to Jeffries included $1,000 each from the PACs for the West Virginia Troopers Association, PFIZER and the West Virginia Hospital Association and more donations from public schoolworkers unions and other unions.