EDITORIAL: Senator Clark Barnes is a Fun Horse to Watch in Governor's Horse Race

HNN Staff
EDITORIAL:  Senator Clark Barnes is a Fun Horse to Watch in Governor's Horse Race

Let's face it: it's somewhat easier to win in a more Republican-friendly area of West Virginia.  But try taking the GOP message to traditional Democratic strongholds like Pendleton County or the home of former Democratic U.S. Senator Jennings Randolph in Elkins.

That's exactly what Republican State Senator Clark Barnes did--twice. His 15th Senatorial District had elected Democrats to the legislature for decades.  But wait until you hear what other weights this one-time  dark horse candidate had to carry on his back in his two races for the State Senate.

When Clark Barnes ran for the Senate in 2004, he went up against one of the strongest  Democrats in the Senate leadership:  Mike Ross, the famed  Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.  Few insiders in Charleston gave Clark Barnes a chance as a newcomer Republican challenger.

But surprise, surprise: Barnes won that year and then, when Ross mounted an extraordinarily well-funded attempt at a comeback in 2008, Barnes beat him worse the second time.   Reportedly, Barnes' secret is a sure command of the important issues to his constituents, along with a  genuine love of campaigning and really digesting what the voters are telling him. The man gets around. .

In short, Clark Barnes is a master of retail politics.  He respects the voters, not demanding their immediate support but just inviting them to chew on what he's saying first, even as he mulls their opinions,  too.  Then, later on, he comes back and visits again, usually coming away with new friends and supporters. Politics ends up being a pleasant exchange with the gentleman from Elkins.

As to his crossover appeal, Barnes tells us that most West Virginians have the same core values, whether on social issues or the need for smaller government and a more robust private sector.  "We have a lot more in common than some allow us to think," says Barnes.  "We need to unify around those things we all believe in and start to pull this wagon together."

At age 61, Senator Barnes has significant life and business experience and appears to have the right temperament for the office of Governor.  In talking with him, he seems relaxed but focused, someone who seeks out the positive in us and then challenges us to join his cause.

Barnes is upbeat about his native West Virginia, while being candid about  our economic problems.  More than anything, you get the idea that he wants  to act, decisively, to make things better here.

In order for Republicans to have a chance to show the state how they would run the state government, they have to win this Governor's race. Otherwise, they will continue to be the second string team instead of full partners in determining the fate of the Mountain State.

Senator Clark Barnes is a candidate who has demonstrated that he can retain his conservative credentials while interpreting them well to the voters of the Democratic Party.  He's done this in a large  slice of West Virginia that is very representative of the state's  party registration as a whole.

That's a rare art form here, though Barnes seems to have perfected it in the 15th Senatorial District.  Time will tell if Barnes' formula for success  in the nine counties he represent in Eastern West Virginia can translate well statewide.

Keep your eye on this horse in the run up to the Governor's Sweepstakes  on May 14th in the Republican Primary Special Election.  He's fun to watch.

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