MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A candid and reflective Kendra Fershee doesn’t see a future for herself in elected office following Tuesday night’s defeat at the hands of incumbent Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va.
“I don’t think elected office is probably my path, but I do think there is something I can do to contribute,” she said Thursday morning on WAJR’s Morgantown AM. “I don’t know what it is yet. You know, we’re looking at less than 48 hours since the results, but I don’t think elected office is where I will be.”
Fershee, a WVU Law Professor, challenged McKinley — in what turned out to be his fifth successful election — on a number of key points, hoping to spawn a grassroots-oriented campaign into Congress — riding what many Democrats were hoping would be a ‘blue wave’ on Tuesday.
“We had to have a different strategy than I think a lot of candidates who go into a Congressional race have,” she said, “which was a function of the type of candidate I was. I work full-time. I have a family. I’m not independently wealthy. It needed to be a grassroots campaign. I knew I wasn’t going to take corporate PAC money, so I wasn’t going to have a huge war chest. So, we needed to do things that were not expensive.”
According to the Federal Election Commission filing database, McKinley raised money at about a 6-to-1 rate compared to Fershee, leading to a comfortable victory by 29.2 percentage points — roughly 58,000 votes.
“I keep saying to people who email me or message me and say, ‘I’m just so disappointed,'” Fershee said. “I say, ‘You know, we’re throwing our shoulders into a brick wall, and we moved it a little.'”
Despite her defeat, Fershee’s Democrats clinched a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time since McKinley’s first election — the Tea Party wave of 2010.
“It wasn’t a lot, and I didn’t expect that it would move all the way. Change takes time, but we started the process. And I think that’s what I’m most proud of.”
As of Thursday’s publication, the New York Times is projecting 225 seats for Democrats and 197 seats for Republicans, with 13 races still uncalled.
“(Democrats) need to be unified in our message,” Fershee said. “We need to tell people who we are in terms of our values. Democrats like to come out with an 18-point plan for healthcare, and by point two everybody is asleep. We need to talk about our values, which is what I did on our campaign trail. I think that was really effective, but I wasn’t able to get my message out there enough because I didn’t have enough money.”
Fershee, who claims she hated the fundraising aspect of campaigning, said she may have erred by not being closer to the party’s power brokers after she clinched the nomination — a surprise upset of former Orrick CEO Ralph Baxter in the Democratic primary.
Still, West Virginia’s map is strange. Despite it’s immense history of Democratic power, the state appears to have shifted into deep red territory. A seat once held for decades by Democrat will be in Republican hands for a fifth straight term. A state that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in 2016 also chose to re-elect Joe Manchin, despite Patrick Morrisey being Trump’s preferred choice.
Fershee said that independent streak among West Virginian voters is why Democrats shouldn’t be quick to concede the possibility of future electoral successes.
“This is the most incredible state in the country,” she said. “People know I didn’t grow up in West Virginia. So I came to it and learned it myself, and now I’m trying to tell other people outside of West Virginia how amazing this place is.”