You can make a difference. But you can’t do it behind a barricade. Constituents must have access to their elected leaders, requiring candidates to beat the pavement and to understand what makes their fellow citizens tick.
That’s why Kendra Fershee is running for Congress, a Democrat from West Virginia’s 1st District — the one that covers the northern part of the state. She is from Michigan. But she is now a die-hard West Virginian and a Mountaineer. She is also a West Virginia University law school professor, along with her husband. With a focus on energy, she’s an academician who never set out to be a politician — just someone who is determined to give the state a “pay raise.”
In the primary, she was outspent 6-to-1, knocking off a high-profile candidate representing an international law firm. She is confident she can do the same to the incumbent, Rep. David McKinley, who now represents the district — the one who refuses to debate her.
In fact, all the Washington insiders seeking office from West Virginia are on lock-down and off-limits to the public or media. Debate — even appearances — are a no-no for not just McKinley but also Rep. Alex Mooney and Carol Miller. They are all trying to cower under the radar and to ride the coattails of the president. It’s both arrogant and disqualifying, especially for a state in pain.
As a reporter, I’ve covered extensively coal and its economic and environmental significance. Ditto for natural gas, which is gushing at the seams in Fershee’s district and which could transform the state. But the candidate suggested I step outside those boundaries and to see coal not as a commodity but rather, as a “core value” — a way of life and something that has defined the state’s history.