Smith campaign focused on grassroots organizing

Gubernatorial candidate Stephen Smith emphasized the importance of effective grassroots political organizing and outreach strategies for months moving forward Saturday during the West Virginia Can’t Wait Cabell County town hall at CoWorks in Huntington.

Smith, whose campaign has organized and conducted about 180 town halls across the state, said the success of the West Virginia Can’t Wait movement’s platform for radical change to the state’s political power structures in favor of every-day working people depends upon the involvement of thousands of such working West Virginians in the movement.

“One governor has never made the difference in West Virginia, and one politician has never won the kind of change we need in our country,” Smith said. “It’s going to take all of us.”

The West Virginia Can’t Wait movement, through its grassroots-focused organizing and outreach, has amassed volunteer teams in all 55 counties in the state in addition to 35 issues-based constituency teams such as “Cannabis Can’t Wait,” “Labor Can’t Wait,” “Roads Can’t Wait,” “Small Business Can’t Wait” and “Students Can’t Wait.”

Smith’s gubernatorial campaign has also received record-breaking amounts of individual and small-dollar contributions.

During the town hall, volunteers pledged to plan and organize various outreach events for the campaign moving forward, such as group door knocking, crowd canvassing, phone banking and “friend banking,” which Smith described as a more effective method than traditional phone banking.

Smith said the campaign offers training to volunteers who wish to help with organizing and outreach.

“If you want to door knock, we will give you the tools, the training and the cards,” Smith said. “You just have to sign up.”

Smith also encouraged volunteers to ask friends to canvass with them, to pledge to remind three friends or family members to vote in the primary in May and the general in November and to sign up for a text message reminder from the campaign on voting day as well.

Campaign volunteers also organized a canvassing event prior to the town hall, and multiple volunteers said they participated.

Smith said his campaign needs about 6,500 votes from Cabell County and about 150,000 statewide to win the primary on May 12.

In addition to engaging in direct, face-to-face organizing and outreach for the 89 candidates who have signed the movement’s pledge to uphold populist principles, such as not taking corporate PAC money and never crossing a picket line, West Virginia Can’t Wait leaders and volunteers also encouraged each other and potential voters to take the pledge and run for office themselves.

Smith said this strategy is “the oldest idea in representative democracy” and is the most effective strategy to transfer political power into the hands of every-day West Virginians.

“We can help each other out,” he said. “We believe in the same things, and we are fighting for the same things, and we can work together to make our resources go further.”

Smith also said residents should consider running for office to reduce the influence of lobbyists and ensure officials are fighting for the values of West Virginians.

“The people of West Virginia are 10 times smarter and more compassionate and more capable of governing than the lobbyists we permit to run our government now,” he said. “So our job is not to go up to the capitol and convince them to listen to us. Our job is to do everything in our power—on a state level and a local level—to replace them with us.”

Local candidates who, among others, participated in the town hall include Jeanette Rowsey, a candidate for Congress in District 17, Tia Fix, a candidate for Huntington City Council in District 3, Hilary Turner, a candidate for Congress in District 3 and Amanda Kinder, a candidate for the Cabell County Board of Education.

Douglas Harding can be contacted at [email protected]

Cabell County town hall meeting with Gubernatorial candidate Stephen Smith.