Pushkin elected chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Democrats chose two members of the House of Delegates as their new leaders on Saturday, electing Mike Pushkin to a four-year term as president and Danielle Walker as vice -president.

Pushkin, a member of the Kanawha County House since 2015, will replace Belinda Biafore, who had served as speaker since 2015 and decided not to run again. Pushkin, who is Jewish and a 52-year-old taxi driver and musician from Charleston, has served as the party’s vice chairman since January.

Meeting in Bridgeport, the party leaders also elected Vice President Walker, 45, who is West Virginia’s only black lawmaker and has served in the Monongalia County House since 2019.

During his acceptance speech, Pushkin said he had had car trouble on the way to the meeting, and that a man on his way home from work went out of his way to drive Pushkin to Bridgeport. He said his conversation with the man renewed his hope for the state.

“He didn’t want to leave anyone on the side of the road,” Pushkin said. “These are the values ​​of West Virginia. That’s what we exist for. I’m sick of hearing that the Democratic Party doesn’t represent the values ​​of West Virginia because we’re the party that doesn’t leave no one behind.”

“We need to get our message across and work hand in hand with our candidates on the ballot, to get this message out to the people: We are the values ​​party of West Virginia. We are only going to be able to do that if we work together.”

They will have their work cut out for them. Republicans control the governor’s office and have supermajorities in the state Senate and House of Delegates. There are 33 Democrats combined in the 134-member legislature. The GOP has held a majority in both chambers since the 2014 election.

Democratic voter registration numbers in West Virginia have plummeted over the past decade, buoyed by criticism of former President Barack Obama’s two-term energy policies in coal-rich West Virginia. In 2014, registered Democrats in West Virginia fell below 50% for the first time since 1932. In February 2021, registered Republicans surpassed Democrats.

GOP state chairwoman Melody Potter resigned in January 2021. Raleigh County’s Mark Harris was chosen in March 2021 to serve out the remainder of his term.