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Local coalition wants new faces, new voices in elected office

By Staff | Oct 23, 2015

In November and December, a series of workshops will be held across West Virginia to provide training and support for people of all social and political backgrounds interested in one day running for elected office.

The nonpartisan West Virginia Candidate Training Academy is hosting the series of workshops with the goal of increasing the number and diversity of candidates running for positions at all levels, from school district leadership or local council positions, to seats in the West Virginia State Legislature.

“The idea of a Candidate Training Academy was inspired by the fact that the people that make most of the decisions in West Virginia are not reflective of the population,” says Stephen Smith Executive Director of West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition. “For example, women make up 51 percent of the population, but only 15 percent of the state legislature. People of color constitute 6 percent of the population, but only 3 percent of the legislature. Same goes for young people. About 20 percent of West Virginia’s population is under 35, but less than 5 percent of that demographic have a seat in the legislature. Working class families are also dramatically under-represented.”

Candidate Training Sessions Schedule

Lewisburg: Thursday, Nov. 12

Martinsburg: Saturday, Nov. 21

Charleston: Saturday, Dec. 5

Wheeling: Tuesday, Dec. 8

For more information, and to register for any of these sessions, visit www.ocofwv.org/DoSomethingGreat.

The training workshops will cover such topics as how to give a stump speech, how to use communications to boost your campaign, how to raise money, and what to consider when choosing which office to run for. The workshops are 100 percent nonpartisan, and people of all political persuasions and backgrounds are encouraged to attend.

Aspiring candidates will learn from current state legislators representing both political parties, as they candidly discuss lessons they learned during their successful and unsuccessful campaigns for office. Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant will attend the workshop in Lewisburg.

One of the aspiring candidates taking part in the training workshops is Jacob Snuffer, an 18-year-old from the small town of Bolt, who will be running for a seat in the House of Delegates next year, inspired by what he describes as a lack of hope in his community.

“I am ready to give 1000 percent to the people of West Virginia, but even then I can’t do it alone,” he says. “By encouraging people to get involved in decision making, and giving them the tools to do so, training events like this have a profound impact on strengthening our democracy.”

Another is Sammi Brown, who is also planning a run for the House of Delegates next year to address what she sees as a lack of representation for people like her – multiracial women from low- and middle-income families.

“There are just not enough people in West Virginia standing up for people like me,” Sammi says. “It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat, a Republican, or whatever. Improving our communities is going to take a lot of work, and it’s really important that we are encouraging of people willing to take that step.”

Anyone interested in attending or being involved in the West Virginia Candidate Training Academy Workshops should visit www.ocofwv.org/DoSomethingGreat, or contact West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition Executive Director Stephen Smith, at 304.610.6512 or ssmith@wvhealthykids.org.

The West Virginia Candidate Training Academy is supported by of a diverse group of organizations – including the West Virginia Community Development Hub, Generation WV, West Virginia Chamber of Commerce Executives, the West Virginia AFL-CIO, and the Our Children, Our Future Campaign – which have united around the common goal of increasing civic engagement.