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Hoppy Kercheval: A spoiler in the 2nd District U.S. House race?

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By Hoppy Kercheval

West Virginia 2nd District Congressional candidate Ed Rabel bristles at any suggestion that he’s a spoiler in the race.

Rabel, who obtained enough signatures to qualify as an independent, told me on Talkline Tuesday:

“I do hear that argument out there, but I think it’s passé. This is a new year. People are demanding change and I think, honestly, it’s an insult to me and the people supporting me to suggest I can’t win.”

It would be dismissive to say Rabel can’t win, but it is accurate to say it’s highly unlikely he will finish ahead of the party nominees Democrat Nick Casey and Republican Alex Mooney. Libertarian Davy Jones is also on the ballot.

West Virginia voters, for all our grousing about politicians and party marching orders, still tend to stick with candidates who identify themselves as Democrat or Republican.

Also, Casey and Mooney are going to be much better financed than Rabel or Jones.

But Rabel could impact the race for a variety of reasons.

The West Virginia native is a former award-winning television reporter for CBS and NBC.

He is smart, expressive and comfortable in front of a microphone or a crowd. His timbered broadcast voice suggests confidence and credibility.

Don’t dismiss the presentation.

One of the reasons we vote for people is that we can imagine them being in an elected office.

Rabel sounds like a guy who should be giving a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Rabel doesn’t want to be labeled, but many of his positions line up on the left with a populist ring.

He speaks derisively about “big coal,” supports a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and mountaintop removal mining, backs a higher minimum wage and more wealth redistribution through the Earned Income Tax credit.

In a commentary earlier this year in the Charleston Gazette, Rabel opined darkly poetic about West Virginia:

“The Kanawha Valley, and most of Southern West Virginia beyond it, is a blighted land, willfully ignorant, active only in perpetuating its misery of that and its children.

“It will not change. It does not want to change. Not even God could save Sodom, because the people were complicit in their own misery and willfully blind to reality. So it is in my home. I weep for it.”

Not exactly Ronald Reagan’s “Shining City on the Hill,” but that message could appeal to the small, but passionate segment of voters that remains liberally rooted in the Mountain State.

A 2013 Gallup Poll found that one in five West Virginians (18 percent) say they are liberal. Who will they support in the 2nd District Congressional race?

Casey is running on the Manchin middle-of-the-road model of pro-coal and pro-life, trying to gather in centrist Democrats and independents, but potentially alienating liberals.

Do those on the left stay home or hold their noses and vote for Casey? Those voters could, however, make an ideological statement and support Rabel, even though that could end up helping Mooney.

The irony here is that the more support Rabel receives, the more likely it is that his candidacy becomes what he detests the most -- a spoiler in the 2nd District race.

Kercheval is host of Talkline, broadcast statewide by the Metronews Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon weekdays. Listen locally on WCHS 580 AM.


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