A Mason County GOP lawmaker announced plans Tuesday to run against the Senate president in a primary challenge.
Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason, said he’ll be taking on Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, in May 2020. He said he plans to take on the Senate leader and lieutenant governor from the political right.
“I think that this district is much more conservative than his representation has been,” he said.
Butler made the announcement from outside the Senate chamber while the full Senate deliberated amendments to a bill that would provide free community college to West Virginian students.
He said the legislation is an “entitlement” program, compared it to something U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., might offer and cited it as evidence of Carmichael being wrong for the district.
“We are failing our kids from preschool to the 12th grade,” he said. “The kids going into technical schools and the colleges now, it’s over 50 percent [who] need remediation, because we’re not doing our job in our primary schools. If we’re going to start a new program and put money toward something, let’s put money toward our schools and let adults pay for their own education through grants, through loans, through working our way through it.”
About a quarter of public and private high school graduates who enrolled in public colleges in 2017 were required to enroll in remedial education classes.
During floor debate of an amendment to expand the community college bill, Carmichael pointed to Butler’s opposition as evidence the Senate shouldn’t expand the bill to include tuition for students to pursue associate’s degrees offered by some four-year colleges. He warned of opposition to the bill as is in the House without the presumably expanded fiscal note.
“That is what we’re dealing with [in the House],” he said.
Butler works as an excavating and logging contractor. He is a Marine Corps veteran. He was elected to the House in 2012 and is the vice chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Last year, Butler sponsored a bill that would have required public two-year and four-year colleges to allow people to carry concealed guns on their campuses, including in school buildings and at sporting events, if they have permits. The bill died in committee.
Since the 2018 statewide teacher and school service personnel strike, union leaders and the state Democratic party have regularly criticized Carmichael.
In 2016, Carmichael beat Democratic challenger Brian Prim with 22,032 votes to 21,123.
The 4th Senate District covers all of Mason and Jackson counties and parts of Roane and Putnam counties.