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Mountain Party selects gubernatorial candidate

CHARLESTON, W.Va.--The Mountain Party has tapped former Richwood Mayor Bob Henry Baber to be its nominee in the Oct. 4 special gubernatorial election.

The party unanimously nominated Baber, 60, following a convention Sunday in Sutton. Former Mountain Party gubernatorial candidate Jesse Johnson was also a potential nominee in the convention, but he withdrew his name from consideration to allow for a unanimous vote for Baber.

Baber was the first Mountain Party member ever elected to public office when he won the 2004 Richwood mayoral election. He had lost out to Johnson for the party's gubernatorial nomination earlier that year.

He acknowledged that being a third-party candidate is an uphill battle.

"It's a tough way to go — you don't have a lot of finances; you've got to do a lot yourself," he said. "Our party is a party about the truth, and sometimes telling the truth is not the most popular thing in the world to do."

While Johnson represented the party in the past two gubernatorial campaigns, as well as for the special U.S. Senate election last year, Baber viewed his nomination as a sort of passing of the baton in the party.

"I love West Virginia with all my heart, and it's time for the state to stop looking backwards and digging its heels in," Baber said. "It's time for us to start looking up towards green.

"We've got to create West Virginia's future and we really have the opportunity to do that. We're one of the few states that is an energy producer, and we've just to start taking a little off the top to start the green initiatives of the future."

Baber said as governor he would roll out a "green energy new deal," aimed at developing more environmentally sound energy resources in the state.

"We are hooked on coal, the whole country's hooked on coal and oil, and we're going to be for the foreseeable future," he said. "But we absolutely need to start a plan to get off coal and oil. We should have done this a long time ago, and now it's time to start."

Baber said proper development of the Marcellus Shale natural gas region was a key to the state's future but a rational, reasoned policy is needed.  

"We must create protections for the landowners, and we must have some laws on the books to protect our beautiful state, and we've got to do this right away," he said.

He said the current state of the industry is unacceptable.

"It's sort of like open hunting season: no licenses," Baber said. "It's just sort of 'go get it boys and girls' — that's not the way to do it."

Baber said he's seen the impact of the industry firsthand after buying his grandparents' farm in Greenbrier County. He said the property had a more than century-old broad-form deed that gave him no mineral rights whatsoever and left his family's land open to corporate exploitation.  

"We cannot afford any environmental blank checks," he said. "We cannot let history repeat itself."

Baber first attempted to run for governor on the Democratic ticket in 1996.

An award-winning Appalachian poet, as well as a Kellogg National Leadership Fellow, Baber currently lives in Glenville and works for Glenville State College.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at jared.hunt@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148.


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