CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senate President Mitch Carmichael’s second try at talking to a crowd of teachers went a little better than the first.
Carmichael, for the second day in a row, strode out the front door of the Senate chamber and stood at the top of the stairs, where teachers and public service personnel had been chanting below.
On Thursday, Carmichael kept his hands in his pockets and stood and looked at teachers, who continued to chant. After a few moments, he turned, grinned and walked away.
Today, Carmichael made a motion with his hand to ask for quiet. It had some effect. Part of what he said had to do with his belief that the Legislature already has made several moves to improve pay and to shore up the Public Employees Insurance Agency. He also thanked teachers for being here.
He got a few words out, but they were muffled by the crowd of thousands. During part of Carmichael’s talk, some in the crowd chanted “O-je-da,” a reference to the Democratic senator from Logan County who is running for Congress.
Reporter Taylor Stuck of the Herald-Dispatch newspaper in Huntington got video of what happened.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael came out to thank teachers for being here and says that they hear them. But you can see and hear the anger. pic.twitter.com/GlYgRnxUjC
— Taylor Stuck (@TaylorStuckHD) February 23, 2018
Teachers have focused much of their ire on Carmichael, who has said the financial steps taken so far are what the state can afford right now. Carmichael has blamed the current situation on “union bosses.”
Carmichael has been booed from the Senate galleries, and many of the chants and signs have been directed at him.
Following his appearance before the crowd today, Carmichael expressed disappointment that he hadn’t been able to be better heard.
“There are issues and concerns, and you get shouted down,” said Carmichael, R-Jackson. “I appreciate some in the crowd, though, were imploring the others to be calm and to listen and to be respectful. I appreciate that, and I want to communicate to everyone that we will continue to take the high ground.
“We’ll continue to listen to all the concerns and issues that face our teaching community and our public employees, and we’ll diligently manage the fiscal condition of the state such that we do not longterm create a condition that’s unsustainable.”
“I’m here,” Carmichael said. “You can be as angry and mean and mad as you want to be. I’m going to face that and try to address their concerns. Because I continue to believe that if people understand the situation in which we address ourselves that there will be a meeting of the minds. We’ll be in dialogue.
“I have incredible respect for those who are here and who continue to do this. I’ll continue to say believe our schools should be open.”
Some of Carmichael’s expressions have drawn scrutiny from teachers.
Teacher Kathy Barnette of Nicholas County was carrying a sign that said, “Mitch Carmichael, laughing at teachers.”
It was a reference to a smile Carmichael gave after quickly recessing last Friday as teachers observed from the gallery and then an expression Carmichael gave after coming out to look at teachers from the Senate steps on Thursday.
“I saw a lot of videos with a smirk,” Barnette said Friday morning.