Charlotte Pritt says supporting Bill Cole is news to her

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Charlotte Pritt, the 1996 Democratic Party candidate for governor, says she was surprised to learn she’s in the pocket of the 2016 Republican candidate for governor.

Charlotte Pritt
Charlotte Pritt

Pritt says she learned of this development from a letter sent out by the West Virginia Democratic Party.

“It’s been a little bit frustrating,” Pritt said Tuesday afternoon. “No, it’s been a lot frustrating.”

Pritt’s campaign says a letter signed by Democratic Party chairwoman Belinda Biafore went out to Democrats on an electronic mailing list.

The letter began, “Bill Cole and the Republicans have adopted Charlotte Pritt. I’ve warned you that Bill Cole and West Virginia Republicans would be up to their usual dirty tricks this fall to promote Pritt, and it didn’t take long. They are funding her campaign to take away votes from Jim Justice.

“Charlotte Pritt can’t win. Bill Cole wants to scam the voters by propping up her campaign because he is so far behind in the polls. Make no mistake: a vote for Pritt is a vote for Cole.”

Jim Justice
Jim Justice

Pritt, now the Mountain Party candidate for governor, says she found out about the letter when Democrats who remain friendly brought it to her attention.

“These underhanded tactics, calling me an ally and calling me his running mate and saying I’m receiving their funding for my campaign is just a boldfaced lie,” Pritt said. “It’s just ridiculous.”

The matter came up after Pritt appeared on Bray Cary’s “Decision Makers.” She was asked if it surprised her that Justice, the businessman who is the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial candidate, is not supporting Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for president.

“He’s a Republican,” Pritt responded.

Sen. Bill Cole
Sen. Bill Cole

That exchange is cited in Biafore’s letter to Democrats: “Bray Cary — a Cole mega donor and GOP shill — put Pritt on his show this week. The West Virginia GOP is betting the farm on Pritt taking enough votes from Jim Justice so Cole can sneak in.”

On Tuesday, Pritt put out her own response: “For the record, I have NOT received one penny from Bill Cole, his campaign or the GOP.”

In a telephone interview, Pritt said she can only recall meeting Bill Cole once.

“We’ve never really talked. I saw him at the Lewisburg fair. I don’t think we said hello or anything.”

Republicans put out their own survey results ┬áMonday showing a very close race between Cole and Justice. Their poll, conducted for the party by Just Win Strategies, showed Justice at 44 percent and Cole at 42 percent — within the margin of error.

The poll with a sample size of 600 showed Pritt with 3 percent; 2 percent for Phil Hudock of the Constitution Party and 2 percent for Libertarian David Moran with 7 percent undecided.

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall, 02)

State Senator Jeff Kessler, who ran against Justice in the Democratic primary for governor, said he applauds Pritt for standing up for her beliefs but believes she is likely to pull some votes from Justice. Kessler endorsed Justice last month.

“I can’t imagine she’s going to pull from the conservative side of the realm,” Kessler, the outgoing minority leader in the state Senate, said Tuesday. “I’d imagine they’ll be more of the liberal philosophy. Just my observation from what I know from the labor and environmental communities.”

Kessler continued, “Absolutely, the┬áMountain Party gets 3 to 7 percent now and then gets into double digits and that’s clearly a difference maker.”

Pritt lost to Republican Cecil Underwood when she was the 1996 Democratic Party nominee. She had defeated Joe Manchin, now West Virginia’s U.S. senator, in the primary. Manchin did not endorse her in the general election, and some Manchin allies formed “Democrats for Underwood.

She says many of those same forces are at work in the current race.

“They come back with attacking me,” she said Tuesday. “It’s absurd and so pathetic. they cannot defend their Democratic nominee for governor. He’s a Republican. What are they gonna say? ‘Well, yeah, you’re right.'”




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