Morgantown City Councilor Mark Brazaitis announced his write-in candidacy for U.S. Senate Monday evening.
Brazaitis said he’ll file his Write-In Candidate’s Certificate of Announcement – the required paperwork – on Tuesday. He will run against incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin, Republican challenger Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Libertarian Rusty Hollen.
The secretary of state’s office explains that write-ins have until Sept. 18 to file their certificates. Once official, their names are posted at all polling places for all voters to see during early voting and on Election Day.
Brazaitis and a handful of supporters gathered in front of BOPARC’s Morgantown Ice Arena for the announcement. His choice was symbolic, he said, because he’s been pushing to expand and upgrade the arena with a second sheet.
“We need more BOPARCs and fewer Mylan Parks,” he said. “They’re not only ice rinks.” They’re community centers where people can talk, enjoy each other’s company, settle differences, celebrate differences. Public ownership allows for public control and public benefit.
He listed eight points of his campaign platform. First, “We are allowing ourselves to be abused by outside interests that are taking our wealth, which is our natural resources, and running it out of the state. So he proposes an Appalachian Revival Act, to spend $700 billion revitalizing the region instead of spending it on Mideast wars.
Second, give $50,000 to anyone whose health has been affected by the extraction industries. Third, acknowledge teachers across the nation through a mandated 10 percent pay raise, paid for with increased taxes on the wealthy.
Fourth, “Focus on universities as universities and get them out of playing the private market” by abolishing public-private partnerships. These partnerships, sometimes single-bidder contracts pick winners and losers, he said.
Instead, give college students the opportunity to run their own businesses. “Give them the experience. Don’t farm it out.”
Fifth, he said, empower women by placing a Planned Parenthood clinic in every city with population above 15,000, to give them greater access to healthcare and reduce abortion rates.
Sixth is a $15 an hour, or even $20, minimum wage for any business with more than 100 employees.
Seventh, tackle climate change. And eighth, “How do we move to a last-to-best economy?” Legalize marijuana as Colorado has. “One growing season … we don’t have to worry about coal and natural gas.”
Asked how he’ll get his message out statewide, he said via social media. “You can run a fairly low budget campaign through Facebook and Twitter, especially just posting the honest truth in videos” that will hopefully be reposted and go viral. “Anything can happen in the next two months.”
Senate write-in candidate victories are rare, but not unheard of. Sen. Strom Thurmond, of South Carolina, did it first in 1954. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, did it in 2010.
Brazaitis has been in the news for his public criticism of City Council, the county commission and WVU, and his going against the wishes of council and BOPARC in unsuccessfully presenting a levy to the county commission to fund a new ice rink. In late August, council voted to remove his ceremonial title of deputy mayor.
He’s a WVU English professor and author. WVU removed Brazaitis from the classroom this fall and barred him from campus pending an evaluation through the university’s Faculty and Staff Assistance Program.
WVU’s action followed his check-in at Ruby Memorial Hospital, and later, Pittsburgh’s Western Psychiatric Institute after police were called to his Courtney Avenue residence Aug. 6, resulting in a 15-hour overnight search by the Morgantown Police and Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department after he fled from the home.
He alluded to the publicity in an email inviting the press to his announcement. “I am undaunted by the invented, cynical nonsense and rumors around my private and professional life. I am for the people of West Virginia. We can move from last to first in 1000 days.”
Among his supporters at the announcement were Jordan Carter, Brazaitis’ assistant for the West Virginia’s Writer’s Workshop and a master of fine arts student at WVU.
“I have supported mark through everything that he’s done,” she said. “I don’t absolutely agree with everything Mark always says but I support him as a person and as a candidate.” She campaigned for him when he ran for council. And she put a sign for him in her window. “I’ll probably do that again,” she said with a chuckle.
Also on hand was Devan Tighe, treasurer for WVU Figure Skating Club, where Brazaitis is faculty advisor. “I’m not the biggest fan of our current Democratic nominee,” she said. “I’m a progressive so I agree with a lot of the things on Mark’s platform and I think he’ll d a lot of good things for the state.”