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The HNN Interview: William Ward Wyatt, Executive Director, West Virginia Republican Party
HNN: So what made you come back for a second dose of West Virginia politics?
Wyatt: When I came to West Virginia the first time and began to learn about the dynamics of the state I was fascinated by the numbers. West Virginia is 50th in Overall Education Performance, 49th in Private Sector Growth 48thin per-capita income, 2nd poorest state in the Union and the only state to have lost population since 1980. So politically, I had to ask why. Democrats in West Virginia have an inherent 2 to 1 advantage over Republicans.
But the tide is turning and we believe there is a correlation to failed Democrat policies that have ravaged the state over the past 80 years. I believe it is time to carry the ball over the goal line and elect Republicans to create majorities in the legislature, elect a Republican as U.S. Senator and fill the 3rd Congressional District with a member who won’t vote against the coal industry. Not to mention this is a beautiful state and I enjoy living here. So when I was offered the opportunity to live here and fight to elect more Republicans I jumped at the opportunity.
HNN: 2013 is an off-election year. What does the State GOP do in a year like this with no elections?
Wyatt: That’s a great question. We focus every day on laying the groundwork towards Victory 2014. The state party, to my knowledge, has never focused on a future cycle like we are now. It is imperative that we have databases up-to-date, fundraising in high gear and staff ready to be the boots on the ground to execute registration drives, identifying voters. We are also focusing on candidate recruitment and identifying volunteer leaders in every county for 2014. We are focused on training programs and beefing up programs we have in place to be in a position to execute a successful Victory program.
HNN: One of the most interesting developments last year was the election of West Virginia's first Republican Attorney General in eighty years, Patrick Morrisey. Then there was the election of Allen Loughry to the State Supreme Court, too. In terms of politics, how can you as Executive Director use victories like this to garner more support for other statewide candidates from your party?
Wyatt: In terms of politics, you highlight their work and contributions to the State during their terms. Today, the Attorney General is kicking off his planned “Jobs Summit & Listening Tour”. The overreaching goal of the Jobs Summit – which is part of the Attorney General’s 17-point plan for the first 100 days in office – is to meet with interested parties throughout the state to identify the top areas in which the Office of the Attorney General can work to improve West Virginia’ economy.
So, I have drafted a press release to send to the WVGOP State Executive Committee and media to promote this plan from the State Party to maximize coverage for the AG. Also, we work together to have the Attorney General speak at events and draw in conservative-minded folks to the Party. The judicial branch is a little different in terms of the politicking but any opportunity to highlight Justice Loughry’s work for our State Supreme Court you can be assured I will be out in front of it. I am very proud of both men for who they are, what they have accomplished and I look forward to the dedication they will give to West Virginia.
HNN: Your boss, GOP State Chairman Conrad Lucas, has touted the fact that the Republican Party is now within, what, five Delegates in the House of Delegates? What can the State GOP do to paint a picture as to what can change if the Republicans can do if they secure the House of Delegates in 2014?
Wyatt: It's a game changer. This session started with a bill that passed the House mandating a pay raise for local public officials. The session ended with an $80,000 pay raise for the Director of the Department of Human Resources. If the Republicans have the majority in the House of Delegates, they will be able to pass meaningful education reform, more jobs bills, and legislation that will create an economic climate that will attract business to the Mountain State.
They will do this by having a majority on Committees, which will allow the Chairs to set the agenda and move legislation through the process, getting it to the floor where they can vote for bills that will benefit West Virginia's economy more than the government and elected officials' wallets. I look forward to working with hte House GOP leadership to make this happen.
HNN: A former Young Republican Chairman here has joked that West Virginia has had one party dominance in the legislature even longer than Cuba. While West Virginians have trended red in recent Presidential contests, what makes you think that they're ready for historic change in the state legislature?
Wyatt: At the end of the day, West Virginians want to put food on the table and save money for their kids’ education. Families want to send their kids to school where the education system is sound and reliable to prepare their children for a future where they can prosper and find work. These same families want their children to live and work in West Virginia and too many young men and women today are moving away from West Virginia to find work.
It’s just not right to live in such a beautiful state, home to an abundance of natural resources and have the government shut these avenues of work off because of over-regulation and Congressman like Nick Joe Rahall voting to kill the coal industry that dominates his district in southern West Virginia. I think West Virginia is tired of hearing it’s on the right track and ready to see that it’s on the right track. I believe that wholeheartedly and am prepared to put my name on the fighting effort to make it happen.
HNN: You're an adopted West Virginian. As someone who is originally from outside the state, what do you see as its most marketable strengths for creating a new and better economy here, the kind that would allow more of our young people to live and work here after school?
Wyatt: Well, slashing government red tape on energy resource industries. Since I have lived in West Virginia I have witnessed so many mines closing because the over-arching EPA it is just terrible to see these good paying jobs go by the wayside when these mines employ hundreds of West Virginians. I am encouraged to have Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in office to take on the EPA and other federal agencies that impose mandates on hardworking West Virginians that prevent them from finding employment or close their mines.
HNN: Any favorite places you like to relax in West Virginia when Chairman Lucas isn't cracking the whip?