CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, is facing two Republican challengers in his quest for a third term in office.
Carmichael, Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason, and teacher Amy Nichole Grady want the opportunity to represent Senate District 4, which includes Mason and Jackson counties as well as portions of Roane and Putnam counties.
“There’s always discussion about someone who thinks they can do something better or whatever,” Carmichael said recently on MetroNews “Talkline.”
“I’m very happy to run on the accomplishments we have able to achieve over the last several years as Senate president.”
Butler, who began serving in the House of Delegates in 2013, is running as the more conservative alternative to Carmichael. He has criticized the Senate leader for the legislative agenda set over the past three years.
“I think we’ve gone down the road several ways trying to solve our economic problems by increasing spending. We’ve passed budgets that have been higher than at any time in the history of the state. We’ve done several tax-increase plans. We’ve had social agendas that have not been helpful to people,” he said.
“What I want to focus on is making the individual lives of West Virginians better by encouraging work, by allowing people to keep more of what they earn, you know, demonstrating to them that work is worthwhile so that we can just do better in the state than what we’re doing now.”
Grady ran in the general election in 2018, finishing third behind winner Eric Tarr and Brian Prim. Grady ran as an independent two years ago as part of a last-minute bid following the statewide teachers’ strike.
“I ran on pure passion,” the Leon Elementary School teacher said. “We’re constantly talking about we need change. I’m the type of person that just wants to do it myself instead of waiting on somebody else to do it.”
Grady said while she agreed with the 2018 strike, the 2019 work stoppage went too far.
“The strike was all over the omnibus bill, as they called it, and I wasn’t completely opposed to everything in that bill. It just wasn’t something I felt we didn’t need to completely walk out on,” she said.
Legislators passed a sweeping bill which included pay raises for teachers and school service personnel as well as guidelines for establishing charter schools.
“I’m not against charter schools, and I know a lot of teachers who aren’t against charter schools,” Grady said. “What we are against is just implementing charter schools without actually doing the research that it requires to make sure that it’s successful.”
Carmichael understands educators and related groups may dislike him because of the efforts to pass the education bills in 2018 and 2019, but he stands by his record.
“Look back over the years when this thing was controlled by the Democrat Party. Teachers almost got no raises. Almost zero raises,” he said of the Legislature.
“I’m Senate president, and we propose pay increases that didn’t automatically meet the demands of the teacher unions initially, but in both years of the teacher strike, we passed the largest pay raises in state history for education, for our teachers and school service personnel, and did it without raising taxes on any West Virginian.”
Carmichael also noted his push for increasing community and technical college opportunities.
Butler has expressed issues with Carmichael’s actions, noting increased spending.
“In a lot of ways, we’ve passed the Democrat agenda. I think we need to get back to the conservative values that are better for the people of the state,” he said.
Butler listed multiple spending items he opposes, including the West Virginia Invests Grant Program for community and technical college opportunities and subsidies for greyhound racing
“I know it’s not easy to cut the size of government, but we should at least be holding a line and letting the economy catch up to us rather than continually increasing the spending year after year,” he said on “Talkline.”
Carmichael said he disagrees with the assessment he is not the most conservative candidate in the primary.
“We’ve done so many conservative things over the past few years,” he said. “I’m 100% pro-life, and I’m endorsed by West Virginians for Life. I’m 100% pro-2nd Amendment, and I’ve been endorsed by the NRA Political Victory Fund. I’ve done so many things that identify me as a very conservative leader of the Republican Party.”
As for Grady, she is touting the support of the state AFL-CIO chapter.
“Many, many of the voters in District 4 are union members. Many are Republican union members. And they have reached out to me and said they don’t feel like they’re being listened to because they’re feeling like they’re just following along with whatever the party says,” she said. “That’s OK to a point, but you’ve got to listen to the voters.”
Bruce Ashworth is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. The West Virginia AFL-CIO has endorsed his primary bid.