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Election 2020

Amid Threats of Violence and Planned Protests, Trump Will Hold Re-election Rally in West Virginia

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The city of Huntington, West Virginia had less than a week’s notice that the president would be hosting a re-election campaign rally in its largest downtown arena.

President Trump publicly made the announcement on July 28 — amid a busy time for the President and his still-evolving administration. The announcement of the rally came just one day after the Senate decided to reject legislation to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, two days after he announced on Twitter he would ban transgender people from serving in the military and a few days before Anthony Scaramucci resigned from his short-lived position as White House communications director.

Over the last week, the scheduled rally has brought a flurry of activity around Huntington. Local activist groups have been scrambling to organize protests, Trump supporters throughout Appalachia are booking their travel plans and the city is coordinating with the local police department and Secret Service.

“Our duty is to welcome the President of the U.S. anytime they come to town,” said Bryan Chambers, communications director for the city of Huntington. “That’s our focus.”

The location makes sense: the president still has a 60 percent approval rating in West Virginia, according to a recent Gallup poll, and won 59 percent of the vote in Cabell County in the 2016 election. Trump’s rally comes on the heels of another recent trip to West Virginia — where he gave controversial speech at the 2017 Boy Scout Jamboree. The August 3 rally will be held at Big Sandy Superstore Arena, which can hold up to 9,000 people. Areas around the arena will be blocked off for protests and roads will be closed for the event.

The rally, which comes during a week of upheaval and drama in the White House, has caused quite a bit of controversy in West Virginia already. Over the weekend, someone using the name “Dana Capron” on Facebook posted a comment threatening to shoot protesters who blocked any of the streets around the event, calling on “armed conservatives” to help “clear the protesters once and for all.” A social media account called Downtown Huntington posted the threat on Twitter and attention to a potential threat begun to swirl.

The police department referred inquiries about the threats to Chambers, who declined to comment on the matter. It’s still unclear if the Secret Service is investigating the threats.

The potential for violence has concerned many Huntington residents, including Kristy Joy Browning, a 39-year-old business manager at Cabell County Public Library who is involved with Tri-State Indivisible, a liberal political organization. She said she still hasn’t decided on whether she’ll go protest, but she did reserve two tickets at the free rally. She doesn’t plan to show up. Many activists in Huntington have done the same thing in protest of the rally, in hopes that the arena will look empty.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean no one will show up — I do think a lot of people will show up,” said Browning, but she hopes the event “doesn’t look as full as he would like it to.”

There’s no information on what Trump’s speech will be about.

“It’s a campaign event and rally of sorts, and that’s all we know,” Chambers said. No further details about the expected turnout or security measures were available from Huntington city officials. Requests for comment from the Trump campaign went unreturned.

Browning would like to hear about healthcare, an issue that has quickly faded from the news after last week’s Senate vote. West Virginia is central to the debate over repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. The state has nearly 180,000 people who receive health insurance through Medicaid. Browning is on health insurance under the state government, and said she and her husband, who is diabetic, stand to lose a lot from a repeal. “There’s a lot going on in our country with healthcare reform, and tax reform … he needs to be working more and campaigning less,” Browning said. “If he wants to come talk about healthcare, I know lots of people who want to give him information about that.”

Though it’s unclear if he will cover healthcare or any of the other recent White House news, Trump’s speech is almost sure to include references to the coal industry. In the first quarter of 2017, West Virginia had the second-highest GDP growth in the U.S., and a boost in mining contributed to some of that growth. The Trump administration has continually emphasized its priorities on fossil fuels, especially in Appalachian states like West Virginia: Energy Secretary Rick Perry visited the Longview Power Plant in July to discuss the economic potential of coal-fired power plants. And just this week, the Department of Interior released a statement touting the Berwind Mine, a coal plant being constructed on the border of Virginia and West Virginia. 

Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said several members plan to travel to the rally in support of the president.

“I certainly hope he will talk about the coal industry and how important that is,” Raney said. “We’ve got to get some assurance these power plants are going to continue to be open and be able to burn coal with a certain future in front of them. He’s given some but we’re hopeful he will continue to do that.

Lyndsey Gilpin (@lyndseygilpin) is a contributing editor of 100 Days in Appalachia based in Louisville, Kentucky. She is also the editor of Southerly, a newsletter covering the American South.

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Election 2020

The Presidential Candidates & Rural Policy: A Quick Guide

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From left, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Andrew Yang, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are introduced before the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Wednesday, July 31, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. Photo: Paul Sancya/AP Photo

Here’s a roundup of the candidates’ positions on rural policy and a sampling of their statements about rural.

This article was originally published by the Daily Yonder.

Eight of 19 Democratic presidential candidates have released comprehensive rural policy plans, and another six have included rural initiatives in other major policy documents, a Daily Yonder review of press reports and candidate websites reveals.

Only one candidate (New York Mayor Bill Deblasio) has been entirely mum on rural, according to our research. The other candidates have at least mentioned rural America on the hustings or in candidate debates. And most have created full rural plans or included rural implications in policy documents on topics such as economic development, healthcare, and conservation.

Candidates with comprehensive rural-policy platforms are former Vice President Joe Biden; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Ohio U.S. Representative John Delaney; New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand; Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper; Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar; Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Below is a table of rural statements and documents from the 19 candidates who qualified for the second round of Democratic primary debates. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order. We’ll update this document as the campaign progresses. If you see errors or omissions, please let our partners know (tim@dailyyonder.com).

Michael Bennett, U. S. Senator (D-CO)

The Candidate’s Words: No significant articulation of rural issues or policies was found, though Bennett does sometimes discuss working with parts of rural Colorado as Senator and Governor.
Statement on Rural America: No comprehensive rural platform, though rural policy ideas are mentioned in health care, infrastructure and climate policies.
Rural Issues Highlighted: Rural Infrastructure, Rural Health Care
Campaign Site: https://michaelbennet.com/

 

Joe Biden, former Vice President, former Senator (D-DE)

The Candidate’s Words: “As president, Biden will build a pathway to the middle class for rural Americans, in rural America. He will pursue a rural economic development strategy that partners with rural communities to invest in their unique assets, with the goal of giving young people more options to live, work, and raise the next generation in rural America. It’s not just good for those in rural America, it’s good for everyone across our country.”

–Campaign Literature, “The Biden Plan for Rural America.”

Statement on Rural America: Comprehensive rural platform unveiled through campaign tour of rural Iowa. Rural policy details available at https://joebiden.com/rural/
Rural Issues Highlighted: Trade Reform, Rural Economic Development, Rural Health Care, Agriculture Reform, Climate Change.
Campaign Site: https://joebiden.com/

 

Cory Booker, U. S. Senator (D-NJ)

The Candidate’s Words: “In FDR’s New Deal, the federal government planted billions of trees, provided conservation incentives to family farmers and ranchers, created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Civilian Conservation Corps, and electrified rural America. In order to address the urgent and existential threat posed by climate change, all of these approaches should be part of our broader strategy. In addition to transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy, another essential step that we must take is to increase the carbon sequestration in our soils, forests, and wetlands.”

— Statement on Climate Stewardship Act, August 2019

Statement on Rural America: No comprehensive rural platform, but Senator Booker mentions rural policy in his Economic Opportunity and Climate Change proposals. Senator Booker also has supported expanding conservation investments in agriculture and ecosystems.
Rural Issues Highlighted: Rural Conservation, Climate Change.
Campaign Site: https://corybooker.com/

 

Steve Bullock, Governor (D-MT)

The Candidate’s Words: “I come from a state where a lot of people voted for Donald Trump. Let’s not kid ourselves. He will be hard to beat…Look, I’m a pro-choice, pro-union, populist Democrat who won three elections in a red state. Not by compromising our values, but by getting stuff done. That’s how we win back the places we lost: showing up, listening, focusing on the challenges of everyday Americans.”

— Democratic Debate, July 2019

Statement on Rural America: No comprehensive rural platform, but Governor Bullock regularly discusses rural issues during campaign events and comments. Rural policy proposals are embedded in his Economic Opportunity plans.
Rural Issues Highlighted: Fair Trade, Rural Economic Development, Rural Infrastructure.
Campaign Site: https://stevebullock.com/

 

Pete Buttigieg, Mayor, South Bend, IN

The Candidate’s Words: “Rural communities help sustain our country and propel our economy. Yet rural Americans are getting sicker and dying younger than people living in cities. That is wrong. Not just because where you live shouldn’t dictate how long you live, but because when we fail one part of our country, we fail our whole country.

Securing a Healthy Future for Rural America policy document

Statement on Rural America: Mayor Buttigieg has a rural policy platform (https://peteforamerica.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/PFA_Unleashing-the-Potential-of-Rural-America.pdf) and a rural healthcare policy initiative (https://peteforamerica.com/rural-health). Rural elements are also included in policies on community service, national security, and community development. He mentions rural small towns, farmers and rural issues on the campaign trail.
Rural Issues Highlighted: Health, Infrastructure, Veterans, Community Service.
Campaign Site: https://peteforamerica.com/

 

Julian Castro, Former Secretary, Housing and Urban Development 

The Candidate’s Words: No significant articulation of rural issues or policies was found.
Statement on Rural America: No comprehensive rural platform, but Secretary Castro does frequently discuss immigration and indigenous people in the context of rural issues.
Rural Issues Highlighted: Fair Trade, Immigration, Climate.
Campaign Site: https://www.julianforthefuture.com/

 

Bill DeBlasio, Mayor, New York, NY

The Candidate’s Words: No significant articulation of rural issues or policies was found.
Statement on Rural America: No comprehensive rural platform or rural policy ideas mentioned.
Rural Issues Highlighted: N/A
Campaign Site: https://billdeblasio.com/

 

John Delaney, Former U. S. Representative (D-MD)

The Candidate’s Words: “We have to put policies in place so a kid doesn’t have to move to a big city in order to have a chance for a good job. We need a country where it’s equally likely that a city kid moves to rural America for a job as vice versa.”

–Candidate Website, “Heartland Fair Deal.”

Statement on Rural America: Delaney has a comprehensive rural platform and regularly discusses rural issues during campaign events and comments. Has rural policy proposals embedded in his Agriculture, Environment and Economic Opportunity platforms.
Rural Issues Highlighted: Rural Health Care, Rural Economic Development, Rural Manufacturing, Agriculture Reform, International Trade.
Campaign Site: https://www.johndelaney.com/

 

Tulsi Gabbard, U. S. Representative (D-HI)

The Candidate’s Words: No significant articulation of rural issues or policies was found.
Statement on Rural America: No comprehensive rural platform or rural policy ideas mentioned. Participated in rural voter event in Iowa.
Rural Issues Highlighted: N/A
Campaign Site: https://www.tulsi2020.com/

 

Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator (D-NY)

The Candidate’s Words: “A bright future for the nation depends on the health and prosperity of rural America. . . .Like all Americans, rural Americans want a fair shot to earn a good life and contribute to the progress of our nation. But our broken economy and broken government have left talent on the sidelines as rural America has suffered a series of crippling losses for decades. And too many politicians have turned a blind eye or made empty promises to uplift rural Americans, only to leave them behind and make their lives harder once in office. . . .But, here’s the thing to know about rural Americans: they’re not giving up. And this nation can’t give up on them. Instead we must treat rural America like the national asset it is.”

–Campaign Literature, “Rebuilding Rural America For Our Future.”

Statement on Rural America: Comprehensive rural platform. Rural policy details available at https://medium.com/team-gillibrand/rebuilding-rural-america-for-our-future-1f88697538b9
Rural Issues Highlighted: Rural Economic Development, Inequality, Rural Infrastructure, Rural Investment, Rural Health Care, Agriculture Reform, Climate Change.
Campaign Site: https://kirstengillibrand.com/

 

Kamala Harris, Senator (D-CA)

The Candidate’s Words: No significant articulation of rural issues or policies was found.
Statement on Rural America: No comprehensive rural platform. Has mentioned farmers and rural racial disparities during the campaign.
Rural Issues Highlighted: Rural Health Care, Rural Economic Development.
Campaign Site: https://kamalaharris.org/

 

John Hickenlooper, Governor (D-CO)

The Candidate’s Words: “Our rural communities are at the forefront of some of our nation’s greatest challenges and opportunities.  President Hickenlooper would be a champion for our rural communities to improve access to healthcare, strengthen investment in infrastructure and human capital, bring focus to the one-fourth of our children who go to schools in rural areas or small towns, and restore a national policy that protects rather than compromises our natural environment.

–Campaign Materials, “Building America’s Rural Economy”

Statement on Rural America: Hickenlooper has a comprehensive rural platform and regularly discusses rural issues during campaign events and comments. Hickenlooper’s rural plan is available at: https://www.hickenlooper.com/rural-economy/
Rural Issues Highlighted: Rural Broadband, Fair Trade, Rural Economic Development, Agriculture Reform, Climate Change.
Campaign Site: https://www.hickenlooper.com/

 

Jay Inslee, Governor (D-WA)

The Candidate’s Words: “During the New Deal, visionary policies fueled rapid expansion of rural economic development through the Rural Development Administration in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The New Deal assured sustained federal financing for modern infrastructure in communities that had been passed over by private industry due to the relatively high cost of serving users in rural areas. Today many of these same programs still exist within the federal government, and we can rely on them once again to ensure that vibrant rural economies thrive in a new clean energy revolution. . . .In this way, the same tools that originally enabled electrification to span from coast to coast can once again bring modern, clean, smart and affordable energy and communications infrastructure to thriving rural communities.”

–Campaign Materials, “Next Generation Rural Electrification”

Statement on Rural America: Inslee has various components of a rural platform, particularly in his “Evergreen Economy” proposals, which address greenhouse gas emissions and job growth.  https://jayinslee.com/issues/evergreen-economy
Rural Issues Highlighted: Rural Economic Development, Agriculture Reform, Conservation of Public Lands, Climate Change.
Campaign Site: https://jayinslee.com/

 

Amy Klobuchar, Senator (D-MN)

The Candidate’s Words: “I come at this with a simple premise: Kids that grow up in rural America should be able to live in rural America. That’s a good way to begin how we think about all of this….”

“I think one of the things we have to bring back to our whole country is respect for rural America.”

–Kicking off campaign swing through rural Iowa, “Amy Klobuchar launches Iowa swing with ‘heartland’ revitalization proposal.”

Statement on Rural America: Comprehensive rural platform unveiled through campaign tour of rural Iowa. Rural policy details available at https://medium.com/@AmyforAmerica/senator-klobuchars-plan-from-the-heartland-strengthening-our-agricultural-and-rural-communities-405cb6b3234d
Rural Issues Highlighted: Rural Infrastructure, Rural Broadband, Rural Economic Development, Rural Health Care, Expand Existing Approach to Agriculture, Climate Change, Trade Reform.
Campaign Site: https://amyklobuchar.com/

 

Beto O’Rourke, Former U. S. Representative (D-TX)

The Candidate’s Words: “This is only the most recent example of an administration that has ignored the interests of rural America. Longstanding inaction and indifference have left their communities with shuttered hospitalsunderfunded schools and decaying highways, bridges, and railways. And as the President’s more than $2 trillion tax cut helped corporations and the wealthiest Americans race forward, far too many more have been left behind. . . .Those living in rural America aren’t looking for handouts. They don’t want anyone’s pity. They want a partner who will empower them, invest in them and allow them to make a profit.”

Op-ed, CNN, May 2019

Statement on Rural America: No comprehensive rural platform, but Representative O’Rourke regularly discusses rural issues during campaign events and comments. Has rural policy proposals embedded in his Climate Plan.
Rural Issues Highlighted: Fair Trade, Rural Economic Development, Climate Change
Campaign Site: https://betoorourke.com/

 

Tim Ryan, U. S. Representative (D-OH)

The Candidate’s Words: “We’ve not done anywhere close to what we need to do for rural America. I think we need an absolute, aggressive campaign in rural America, because I think we can win those voters back. When you look at the last time we had major economic problems, deep, deep, deep structural economic problems, [it] was during the Great Depression. Who was part of that Democratic coalition? Rural America. . . .That’s when we really made these big reforms with the New Deal. So if you want a Green New Deal, it’s gotta be in coalition with and collaboration with rural America.”

Interview with Rolling Stone.

Statement on Rural America: No comprehensive rural platform, but Representative Ryan regularly discusses rural issues during campaign events and comments. Has rural policy proposals embedded in his Agriculture, Environment and Economic Opportunity platforms.
Rural Issues Highlighted: Agriculture Policy Reform, Fair Trade, Rural Economic Development.
Campaign Site: https://timryanforamerica.com/

 

Bernie Sanders, Senator (I-VT)

The Candidate’s Words: “Fundamental change in America’s agricultural and rural policies is no longer just an option; it’s an absolute necessity. Farmers, foresters, and ranchers steward rural landscapes, which benefit all Americans. They provide us with essential resources such as food, fiber, building materials, renewable energy, clean water, and habitat for biodiversity. They also have an enormous potential to address climate change. With the right support and policies, we can have rural communities that are thriving economically and ecologically.”

–Campaign Website, “Revitalizing Rural America.”

Statement on Rural America: Comprehensive rural platform unveiled through campaign tour of rural Iowa. Rural policy details available at: https://berniesanders.com/issues/revitalizing-rural-america/
Rural Issues Highlighted: Corporate Power, Farm Economy, Fair Trade, Wealth Inequality, Rural Infrastructure, Rural Broadband, Rural Economic Development, Rural Health Care, Climate Change.
Campaign Site: https://berniesanders.com/

 

Elizabeth Warren, Senator (D-MA)

The Candidate’s Words: “A strong America requires a strong rural America. . . . But both corporate America and leaders in Washington have turned their backs on the people living in our rural communities and prioritized the interests of giant companies and Wall Street instead. . . .Our failure to invest in rural areas is holding back millions of families, weakening our economy, and undermining our efforts to combat climate change. It’s time to fix this.”

–Campaign Website, “My Plan for Rural America.”

Statement on Rural America: Comprehensive rural platform on both rural economic development and agriculture. Rural policy details available at: https://medium.com/@teamwarren/my-plan-to-invest-in-rural-america-94e3a80d88aa
Rural Issues Highlighted: Antitrust, Farm Economy, Fair Trade, Wealth Inequality, Rural Infrastructure, Rural Broadband, Rural Economic Development, Rural Housing, Rural Health Care, Climate Change.
Campaign Site: https://elizabethwarren.com/

 

Andrew Yang, Entrepreneur

The Candidate’s Words: No significant articulation of rural issues or policies was found.
Statement on Rural America: No comprehensive rural platform, but Mr. Yang does frequently discuss his economic policies in the context of rural job losses due to automation.
Rural Issues Highlighted: Fair Trade, Rural Economic Development, Climate Change.
Campaign Site: https://www.yang2020.com/
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Election 2020

Elizabeth Warren’s Opioid Plan Welcomed In Area Flooded With Millions Of Prescription Pills

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U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren speaks to a crowd in Kermit, West Virginia, on Friday, May 10, 2019. Photo: Kara Lofton/WVPB

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) outlined her plan to tackle the opioid epidemic during a campaign stop Friday in a small West Virginia town where many attendees were just happy to see a politician show up.

Kermit, with a population of 400, has been held up as an example of the nation’s opioid epidemic since it was reported that nearly 9 million hydrocodone pills were shipped to a small pharmacy in the town by the McKesson Corporation in the course of two years. Locals and people from the surrounding area gathered at the town’s fire and rescue station to hear Warren’s proposals, eager that someone from Washington was willing to listen to their concerns.

Jada Hunter, 74, is a retired principal and president of the West Virginia chapter of the American Association of University Women. She said that after watching her neighborhood “change for the worst,” she’s just happy to see someone put forth a plan to address the opioid problem.

“Too often people in our area feel neglected,” she said. “To me, just the fact that she has [an opioid policy plan], that’s enough for me.”

Warren is the second Democratic presidential contender to roll out such a plan this year, though this is an updated version of one she first introduced alongside Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) last year. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) unveiled a proposal to combat drug addiction and mental health issues last week. 

Durand Warren, 46, the director of behavioral services at the Williamson Health and Wellness Center, said that if someone wants to bring money to help fight the area’s opioid crisis, “I don’t care what party you are.”

“I don’t care who you support,” said Warren, who’s not related to the senator. “My main concern is keeping people alive.”

Wayne Williamson, 42, is a captain at the fire station, which is staffed by volunteers. He said Friday’s event wasn’t confirmation that anyone who worked at the fire department would vote for Warren, and expressed disappointment that a small group of Trump supporters protested outside Warren’s event.

“I wish people would just let these candidates come speak, do their thing, and let them go on to their next stop,” he said, noting that “this is Trump country and we know it.”

“Not only is she a presidential contender, she is a United States senator, and to get somebody from that forum to come down to our little town and be seen, you know, it just kind of puts us on the map and lets us know that people are out there in the big seats that know where we’re at now,” he said.

Williamson said if Warren’s opioid policy proposal becomes a reality, he hopes funds will help small towns like Kermit build in-bed facilities for addicts.

“If you can save five out of 20 people, that’s five, you know? As it is right now, you’re saving zero,” Williamson said, citing a lack of rehab facilities where people are comfortable going for help.

Dr. J.W. Endicott, who lives in Kermit, agreed that more treatment facilities could help patients in the area, especially those with financial burdens. He said he’s referred patients to outpatient clinics that are 30 miles away or more, which can be difficult for people who struggle to pay for food, vehicles and basic living expenses.

Warren received cheers when she told the crowd her plan would largely bypass state government to get funding to smaller communities like Kermit.

“To deal with watching your friends and neighbors die from something like this ― this isn’t right,” she said. “We’ve got to go community by community to fix this.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post, © 2019 Paige Lavender/HuffPost.  Used with permission.

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