Analysis: Clark Barnes Banking on Budget Issues in Governor's Race

HNN Staff
Senator Clark Barnes
Senator Clark Barnes

The Republican Governor's Race will culminate on May 14th, when an estimated 15% of the Republican rank and file, with several Independent voters, will choose their nominee.

 While West Virginia has had primaries with low turnout before, this particular race is like none other in that so many excuses are handy for even regular voters to opt out.  Examples include:

  • "It's only a one-year term, then we'll be right back at it again in 2012."
  • "No "Name Candidate" is on the ballot.  Who are these people?"
  • "Let's give the Democrats the Governorship right now and come back in a year after they botch it."

But HNN Senior Political Consultant Jack Ellis says that, in fact, the 2011 gubernatorial election could shape the state for years to come.

"People don't see this little election for the significance it holds," said Ellis, a Scott Depot resident and former consultant to gubernatorial candidates Jim Lees and Robin Capehart.  "The winner of this race gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a favorable impression to the whole state as Governor for a year.  Sure, it's only a year, but if people like the way this next Governor acts, that means we've got this occupant for five years, not one.  And there are plenty of huge issues coming down the pike in the next five years."

Ellis pointed to the state's pension funds as just one example.

"Take a look at what's happening in other states like Wisconsin, where the outlay for pensions and other retirement benefits for state employees has hit a critical mass," said Ellis. "Everyone wants to honor the state's commitments out there to those who worked their whole lives for the state.  But it's beginning to bankrupt the entire government out there, and it could here, too--if we don't have responsible leadership that can find the necessary cuts in other parts of the state's bureaucracy to keep those funds solvent."

"Clark Barnes, the Republican State Senator from Elkins, has emerged as a guy who isn't afraid to say what others won't," said Ellis.  "Barnes is very candid about the need for West Virginia to cut spending wherever there is duplication in the state government.   He's also the only person I've heard talking about turning down federal stimulus money and other federal grants if there are strings attached.  People don't always realize that the federal money oftentimes requires a state match--or for the state to eventually pick up the tab altogether for programs we may not really need."

"Barnes gets this, having dealt with these issues repeatedly in the legislature," said Ellis.  "He says he's willing to tell the federal government "No" on some of these federal programs, which will free up funding for the real priorities like shoring up the state pension funds, or road repair, or schools."

"That's a balanced approach that may sell very well this year," said Ellis.  "Barnes is clear that his way of savings is through cutting spending not tax increases, and people in a recession respond to that.  Frankly, he's positioning himself as the candidate you want to hire, just to see what he can do in this one-year term.  He's saying, "Give me a year, and I'll show you what a streamlined state budget can look like, West Virginia."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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