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Democrats are reaping what they sowed

Sixty years ago, my late father-in-law fled the poverty of Calhoun County and landed a job at a car rental shop in Cleveland.

Through hard work, he moved all the way to the top to become the manager of Hertz at Hopkins Airport.

Imagine how much better a place Calhoun would be today if Albert Jasper Ball had been able to find gainful employment in Grantsville.

The story remains the same two generations later.

Three of his grandsons and both of his granddaughters have left the state and are working to boost the economies of North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and South Korea.

All told, that's one lawyer, one nurse, an artist and two teachers whom West Virginia helped to educate and then lost.

Things do not have to be this way.

About 120 years ago, my great-grandfather left Czarist Russia for West Virginia with children and a pregnant wife in tow (a great-aunt was born on the voyage over) and made his fortune by establishing a men's clothing store in Wheeling.

After surviving for more than 100 years, the store is gone. So is most of downtown Wheeling.

Now let us talk about next year's Senate race, shall we?

Democrats find themselves in the odd position of not having a solid, seasoned candidate who has proved himself to the public.

Usually it is Republicans who have this problem. Democrats have enjoyed a deeper bench over the years, as radio newsman Hoppy Kercheval has pointed out.

The last four Democratic senatorial candidates were fielded from Congress (Robert C. Byrd and Jennings Randolph) or the Governor's Mansion (Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin).

Among them, they won something like eleventy million senatorial races over the years.

This time, Democrats have only one congressman, Nick Joe Rahall, available to run.

After working 35-plus years to become governor, Earl Ray Tomblin is unlikely to give that job up to become the lowest man on the totem poll in the U.S. Senate.

Republicans have two congressional representatives to choose from, with Shelley Moore Capito likely getting the nomination.

Things might have been different had Alan Mollohan's land deals not cost Democrats the congressional seat now held by Republican David McKinley.

But something bigger cost Democrats three congressional seats: 80 years of domination of the Statehouse.

Democratic policies in Charleston hurt the state's economy, which in turn cost it population.  Young people had to leave for greener pastures elsewhere.

Other states grew in population. Over time, they gained congressmen and West Virginia lost congressional seats.

In 1950, Florida and West Virginia had six congressmen each. Today, Florida has 27 and West Virginia has three.

That affects senatorial races. In 1958, Democrats had their pick of six congressmen to run for two Senate seats.

They went with Byrd and Randolph, defeated two Republican incumbents, and have held those Senate seats ever since.

As I said, this time they have one, not six.

State economic policies matter. Florida is a right-to-work state. West Virginia is not.

Florida has no personal income tax. West Virginia does. Despite that income tax, West Virginia's sales tax is 6 percent, the same as Florida's.

To be sure, Florida has better weather (although the only Hurricane I have ever seen in West Virginia is the town in Putnam County) but wise policymakers would have made allowances for that.

As I think about my children and their cousins, I realize that 80 years of Democratic Party rule have denied them the opportunity to stay and flourish in West Virginia.

Democrats deserve to lose that Senate seat that they have held since 1958.

Surber may be reached at



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