If you want to hear from West Virginians who are passionate about their politics, talk with members of a party’s executive committee.
These are the folks—Republicans and Democrats—who are the foot soldiers of their party. They make phone calls, raise money, man campaign headquarters, put up signs. They are elected by people in their communities, and they take pride in that.
They also believe, correctly, that they operate as an independent organization with their own bylaws.
The first sentence on the website of the West Virginia Democratic Party executive committee says, “Your Democratic Party is governed by its State Executive Committee.”
The bylaws of the West Virginia Republican Party say the party makes its own rules and “No rules at the state and/or local level can be in conflict with these rules.”
The state parties may be extensions of their national parties, but they value their independence.
And that is why some of these party executive committee members and grassroots party supporters are recoiling at the proposal before the Legislature to automatically make legislators members of their party’s committee.
Ben Anderson, Chairman of the Greenbrier County Republican Party and executive committee member, said HB 2354 is a power grab.
“This would be government overreach at its finest,” Anderson said during a virtual public hearing on the bill Wednesday. “If legislators want to have a say on the party executive committee, they should run for the position.”
Ryan Frankenberry, executive director of the progressive Working Families West Virginia, said, “It’s really an affront to all of the hard workers that put on the bean dinner, that go out and register voters, that do the real work to get people elected.”
That seemed to be the consensus of many of the speakers, but not all.
Jay Taylor, state GOP executive committee member from Taylor County, expressed his support for the bill.
“Opposition to the bill confuses me greatly,” Taylor said. “It’s almost stunning that our elected officials aren’t official members of the executive committee. The sole purpose of the executive committee is to help out elected officials.”
That may be true, but apparently many on the executive committees fear that automatically adding all legislators would allow the lawmakers to dominate the committees.
Additionally, how many elected legislators even want to be on the executive committee? Policy making and legislative sessions are more compelling than the grinding, but necessary, work of local party loyalists.
Let those dedicated folks run their party. If legislators want a seat on their party’s committee, they can run for it.