by Stephen N. Reed

From 1984 through 2012, West Virginia voters could wake up occasionally to discover that
Morgantown businessman John R. Raese was running for high office, usually U.S. Senate.
These were statewide races, so through Raese’s radio and TV spots, West Virginians
were receiving a concentrated dose of Raese’s views on big economic issues, particularly
how to grow the state’s economy.
One did not have to agree with Raese on the remedy for the state’s economy to appreciate that
he had managed to spark a needed, sustained statewide discussion. Raese got the ball rolling
by standing by his convictions regarding the positive effects of private-sector job creation,
traditionally the backbone to any economy.
Raese and his donors spent heavily in this exercise in civics, bringing a fresh vision of what
a more robust private sector could mean for West Virginia. Raese envisioned a more positive economic
climate where a wide range of local entrepreneurs could grow their small businesses and the new jobs
they bring, much like his family had grown their enterprises over the generations.
Importantly, Raese ran for office before West Virginia had turned completely red politically. Indeed, his
campaigns for U.S. Senator and Governor occurred when West Virginia was still heavily Democratic.
Yet Raese had very close elections, competing against heavy hitters like Jay Rockefeller in their 1984
U.S. Senate contest and in 1988 against Arch Moore in that year’s GOP gubernatorial primary.
How did a relative newcomer like Raese have such close contests against universally known incumbents
like Rockefeller and Moore? True, Raese’s campaigns were funded sufficiently by Raese and his donors.
However, the secret sauce in Raese’s campaigns was his choice of broad issues and effective messaging.
Raese didn’t want to spend his campaign dollars on boutique issues that only appealed to a small sector
of the public. He had bigger fish to fry, as did his voters.
Raese was looking for like-minded voters in Republican, Democratic, and Independent circles. His
broad, economic
Issues hit a nerve with hundreds of thousands of West Virginia voters across party lines.
For those who followed Raese’s campaigns over the years, the state’s economic situation was always
the obvious
elephant in the room. So much needed improvement in highways, education, healthcare, and simple
progress in
West Virginia’s communities comes down to the need for improved economic conditions across the
Mountain State.
To his credit, Raese zeroed in on this. More hopefuls across the political spectrum should do the same

How can you presume to lead a state if you don’t really care about creating jobs for its people?

Stephen N. Reed is a former Deputy Secretary of State for West Virginia.

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