Bennie Kyle

Bennie Kyle of Fairmont has registered with the secretary of state’s office to run as a write-in candidate for the First District congressional seat.

By knocking on doors, making phone calls and speaking to church congregations, a local man says he’s ready to challenge both the Democratic and Republican candidates for the First Congressional District.

In fact, he says he’s the “X Factor” for the race.

Bennie Kyle of Fairmont registered with the secretary of state’s office as an official write-in candidate for the Nov. 7 race, which features longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Alan B. Mollohan, D-W.Va., and Republican contender Delegate Chris Wakim, R-Ohio.

Ben Beakes, chief of state for Secretary of State Betty Ireland, said that Kyle is one of two write-in candidates for the race. The other is David Moran of Eglon, which is in Preston County.

Kyle is running what he describes as the “ultimate grassroots campaign.” He has a pool of volunteers who make 100 calls a day to voters in the 19 counties the First District represents. He moves from church to church and group to group, spreading his campaign message that he describes as pro-nation, pro-church, pro-family, pro-life and pro-guns.

Kyle is a registered Democrat, but said that he “felt that it’s my civic duty to challenge Mollohan.

“I don’t feel like he is addressing anything,” Kyle explained. “Very seldom do we see him. We have an absentee congressman. It pains me to go against the party, but the party will not rein him in.”

But instead of joining the “mud slinging” campaign the Mollohan and Wakim camps have started, Kyle said he is going to focus on the issues and the voters. He pointed out that the candidates and their backers have spent millions, but he’s running a campaign that will only cost thousands — $5,000 in the seven weeks left before Election Day.

“You don’t have to be on the Who’s Who to know what’s what,” he said of his low-budget campaign.

With his focus on speaking to church groups and his strong church connections — two of his campaign volunteers are pastors — Kyle says he has church support. As the immediate past secretary of the Tri-County NAACP, Kyle also feels he has the minority vote.

And he said he’s reaching those who have never been reached before, taking stacks of voter registration forms with him wherever he goes.

“The voters that are normally turned off to voting are now energized,” said Kyle, a former VISTA volunteer.

Kyle currently works on the grounds crew at the Tygart Dam state park, “and I’m going to be working there tomorrow.”

The issues hit really close to home for Kyle, who is originally from Indiana and lives in Fairmont with his wife of 18 years, Elsie, and 9-year-old daughter Ti’ara.

“I know high taxes, no insurance, living from paycheck to paycheck. I have family members in Iraq and family members in Mississippi and Louisiana,” Kyle said. “It pains me to still see a hole where the World Trade Center was and soldiers guarding voting booths in Iraq when votes aren’t even counted in Florida.”

E-mail Misty Poe at mpoe@timeswv.com.

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