This article originally provided by The Herald-Dispatch

December 22, 2006

Big spending failed to sway W.Va. voters

In an era when big money often sways voters and elections, it was encouraging to see one instance when it did not.

Massey Energy CEO and Chairman Don Blankenship spent $3.7 million this year in an effort to unseat 42 Democratic members of the House of Delegates, according to recent campaign finance reports reviewed by The Associated Press.

If that seems like a lot, you are right. The entire field of 240 people who ran for the House spent only $3.8 million.

Only one of the targeted incumbents, Margarette Leach of Cabell County, lost in the November election. And we think that was due more to the 80-year-old legislator's declining health than the ads run by Blankenship's "And For The Sake of the Kids" campaign. Leach, who had represented District 15 since 1992, had moved with her husband to an assisted-living facility during the fall.

There are probably several reasons Blankenship's effort failed.

Certainly, the national discontent that affected Republican candidates across the country was felt in West Virginia as well.

Also, this was no covert operation.
Blankenship made his intentions known,
and if our letters to the editor were any
indication, some voters were put off by the idea of one man's opinion carrying that much weight.

But most of all, we question whether this "third party" advertising approach -- often effective in statewide and national campaigns -- really works on the local level. These House races are as much about connections to the community as ideology. In other words, yard signs and handshakes can still trump slick TV ads that try to tar everyone with the same brush.

That is probably a good thing.

Next time, that $3.7 million might be better spent on scholarships and parks.


Voter-Owned Elections

Citizens for Clean Elections P.O. Box 6753 Huntington, WV 25773-6753 304-522-0246