How a diverse new Democratic coalition has challenged Joe Manchin’s power in West Virginia: report

How a diverse new Democratic coalition has challenged Joe Manchin’s power in West Virginia: report
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As deeply Republican as West Virginia is — former President Donald Trump won it by around 38 percent in 2020 — Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has enjoyed a long political career in the Appalachian state. Now 74, Manchin was first elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1982 and went on to serve as governor and secretary of state before becoming a U.S. senator.

But journalist Daniel Boguslaw, in an article published by The Intercept on June 30, offers some reasons why he believes that Manchin’s days as a Democratic kingmaker in West Virginia may be coming to an end.

“For decades,” Boguslaw explains, “Sen. Joe Manchin has presided over West Virginia’s Democratic Party, crowning candidates and throwing cushy appointments to allies while the state’s jobs, wages and environment have gradually been ground to dust. But earlier this month, a grassroots slate of over 50 Democrats took control of the West Virginia Democratic Party after winning a majority of seats on the executive committee and ousting party leadership, thus ending Manchin’s de facto control of the state party apparatus.”

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Boguslaw continues, “Now, after a six-year organizing push, every old guard party apparatchik — save for the treasurer — is out of office, replaced with activists from across the Democratic spectrum set on revitalizing the state and forcing renewed support from the national party. The June 18 victories mark the beginning of the end for an era defined by atrophy, nose-diving voter rolls, and just a single Democratic statewide representative: Manchin.”

According to Boguslaw, the “new slate of West Virginia Democrats” is “made up of a broad coalition of activists, including moderates, seeking to disrupt Manchin’s power.”

“Unlike the Democratic Party upset in Nevada, which saw the Democratic Socialists of America overthrow a calcified political machine with a vast progressive ground game, West Virginia’s insurgents pulled it off by outmaneuvering a decaying party leadership grown accustomed to uncontested elections — using the DNC’s own bylaws,” Boguslaw explains. “At the helm of the new executive committee is Party Chair Mike Pushkin, a cab driver, musician, and member of the West Virginia House of Delegates.”

Boguslaw describes Pushkin as a “cautious left-leaning liberal” who “tends to abstain from attacking Manchin head-on” and is “focused on rebuilding the party through the same bread-and-butter issues he pursued in the House of Delegates: job creation, addressing the opioid crisis, and allying with House libertarians to successfully pass a medical marijuana legalization bill.”

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Shane Assadzandi, a Democratic organizer in West Virginia, told The Intercept, “We won every officer seat we ran for. And after years of having to fight our own party to get a seat at the table, I look forward to fighting Republicans at the ballot box instead of useless Democrats at committee meetings.”

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