FAIRMONT – Stephen Smith is running a campaign based on conversations.
Since announcing his campaign for the Governor’s office late last year, the 39-year-old anti-poverty group leader has been traveling the state to hear what residents want to see happen in state leadership.
Running as a Democrat, Smith said his platform will be based on the issues people tell him and the solutions on the ideas people offer.
“Our No. 1 strategic goal for the summer is to conduct 10,000 one on one, face to face conversations with West Virginia voters,” Smith said. “The reason why we’re doing that is we will base our platform, the things we fight for on those conversations, and also it’s a chance to recruit leaders.”
Smith spoke Monday night during a meet up of the group Marion County Can’t Wait, where he or his county captains planned to speak with everyone in attendance. According to Smith, this is an idea that grew out of his disdain for the current state of West Virginia politics.
“I’m personally exhausted by politics that treat voters as idiots, consumers that need to be fed,” Smith said. “We think voters and citizens are the people who should actually run the government, and it’s our job to listen to them, and to invite them to take more and more leadership in them.”
Throughout the listening tours, Smith and his campaign county captains have heard a number of issues, with some issues being consistent. He said these are the ones his platform will focus on.
“I feel like some of the biggest issues are poverty is huge, opioid addiction is significant,” said Kate Greene, Marion County captain for Smith’s campaign. “Education was huge too, so those were probably the three top in that meeting.”
Smith’s previous venture as executive director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition has him well-versed in state policy. Smith has an idea of the processes to come if elected governor.
The meeting of Marion County Can’t Wait played host to about 30 people who all attended with the goal of voicing different issues. Whether it was the roads, infrastructure, economy or education, the attendees would have their say.
“What brought me here is I want to hear what Stephen has to say about education,” said Blair Montgomery, member of the Marion County Board of Education present at the meeting. “With what is going on in the Legislature, it’s going to be tough if he is elected governor how he is going to moderate some of the things that they have done.”
Smith also said his campaign is based off of gathering people together just like this, which ties directly into his philosophy on politics. By getting everyone together to fight for a united cause, he believes he can take the government to the people, and the people to the government.
“We actually don’t think politics in West Virginia is left versus right, incumbent versus challenger, Democrat versus Republican – it’s the good old boys versus everyone else,” Smith said. “What we actually need is a whole new government that is run by all of us. So in order to get a government that is run by all of us, we need a campaign that is run by all of us.
“We’re spending all our time is recruiting people to the campaign.”