HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — For the first time since 1988, Marshall University football fans will not be able to purchase a Stewarts Original Hot Dog at games.
Delegate John Mandt Jr. (R-Cabell), the owner of Stewarts Famous Hot Dogs, told MetroNews on Tuesday that his company was not included in the contract this season between Marshall and the school’s food service vendor Sodexo.
“Sodexo in agreement with Marshall canceled my contract,” Mandt said. “Did Marshall urge them to, I don’t think so. But Marshall always made sure I was included and this year they did not.”
Mandt said he could not get into why the decision was made but said there are reasons to believe it could have been political. The delegate has been criticized over the past year for a vote on a bill that affected the LGBTQ, comments on the LGBTQ group and a post on social media about a vigil in Huntington for victims of a March terror attack in New Zealand on a mosque.
“I think most people can read between the lines,” Mandt said.
“When you’re a delegate and involved with politics for the greater good and trying to do some good things for your district, county, city, and state, if there are people who don’t believe in your views or votes you might get hurt a little bit.”
More than 750 individuals signed a petition in the spring for Marshall and Sodexo to cut ties with Stewarts after comments on Facebook responding to why he did not attend the vigil.
He posted, “This event was in Huntington last night. Evan Worrell and I are choosing to distance ourselves from this. Anything Muslim is going to be associated with Democrats. It’s better to stay away than be associated with them. Thoughts?”
Mandt told MetroNews on Tuesday his post was a misunderstanding as he was not sure if members of Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) would be at the vigil, which he said is an organization that “funds terrorist organizations.” CAIR had been at the state Capitol in the past regular legislative session, which Mandt did not agree with. He said he wanted to keep his distance to the group and his post was meant to aim at the House Democrats that invited the group.
“Just because I posted what I did, would I change it? I don’t think so because I was correct in what I said,” Mandt said.
In February, protests took place outside of Stewarts restaurant in Huntington for a vote that Mandt made against the bill affecting the LGBTQ community. Mandt said he only voted against discharging a bill from the committee for an immediate vote on the floor.
In June on the Tom Roten Show, Mandt called the LGBTQ community “the alphabet hate group.”
Mandt said he is disappointed the decision that will lead to Joan C. Edwards Stadium, which opened in 1991, to sell hot dogs that aren’t Stewarts for the first time.
“I am 56 years old now. When I was 24 that was one of the first big things that I did for our company and fans at Marshall University,” he said. “They were just getting boiled wieners thrown into a bun and paying a price for it.”
He estimated that nearly 9,000 hot dogs were sold in one Herd football game last season and thousands more are sold every football home game dating back to when Marshall played at Fairfield Stadium in 1988.
The famous “Thunder Dogs”, exclusive to Marshall games, will now be moved to the regular restaurant menu, Mandt said.
As for the future of the hot dogs at the stadium, Mandt said he was not sure what will be sold. As for his future in the House of Delegates when his term ends in 2020, Mandt has made up his mind.
“I am running again and I have more of a will to run and get reelected than ever before,” he said.
“When people get badgered or you are called a bigot, racist or a hater, I am none of those things but those things are said to try and discourage you from what you are doing. Those things try to get your mind on something that is not important in defending stuff like that instead of working towards the greater good of West Virginians.”
Marshall and Sodexo could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.