Between the Rivers: A U.S. Senate Candidate for Working-Class West Virginians
While we walked knocking on doors in Ranson in a political campaign, Zach Shrewsbury and I talked about how politics can make life better for everyday people in West Virginia.
The conversation deepened as we worked together and with others to push Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) to support President Biden’s visionary Build Back Better with child tax credits, union jobs in new energy, environmental cleanup, infrastructure and new economic boosts to foster high wagesfrom the bottom up.
We couldn’t believe that Manchin, a Democratic senator from a poor and suffering state, would, or could, stop something his own voters needed so much.
Shrewsbury, 32, a Fayetteville resident, announced on October 15th that he is running against Manchin for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. On the 10th of November Senator Manchin announced he would not be seeking another, sparking speculation that he will mount a third party run for the presidency.
Shrewsbury announced his campaign in front of the old Jefferson County Courthouse in Charles Town surrounded by a modest crowd of supporters. Those supporters include Danielle Walker, a Democrat who represented Morgantown in the House of Delegates, and Pam Garrison, who is Fayette County Democrat of the Year. Those in the crowd included union organizers and leaders, religious and spiritual leaders, low-wage workers and everyday people.
Shrewsbury’s campaign announcement speech reflected the diversity and makeup of the people who came to support him. He accurately and plainly laid the blame for so many West Virginia problems at unchallenged corporate power and the corruption that always accompanies unchecked corporate power. He called for unity amongst working families strong enough to put everyday people above corporate greed.
The following morning Shrewsbury and his team walked a UAW picket line at the General Motors plant in Martinsburg. Afterwards on a bench in downtown Shepherdstown this is what Shrewsbury told me:
“I’m running to win and to show that working-class people can and need to run for office, even high office. We can’t be ruled by the wealthy elite who don’t understand everyday American life.”
“I think Joe Manchin [and his kind] has forgotten how everyday people live, especially in working-class poverty.”
When asked how his background prepared him for such a huge challenge, Shrewsbury answered, “I’m from small town America. I grew up on a farm.”
“I served America in the Marine Corps which allowed me to see much of the world.”
The grandson of a coal miner, Shrewsbury was born in Ripley, West Virginia, and graduated from James Monroe High School in Monroe County. After serving five years in the Marine Corps, he began working on political campaigns from Seattle to West Virginia. He has organized rallies and town halls to engage local communities that are often “forgotten” within both political parties.
Since 2020 he has worked as a community organizer for the needs of everyday West Virginians, promoting legislation to address climate change and veterans issues.
“My work in communities across West Virginia and Appalachia has shown me the multitude of issues and problems of people whose voices are never heard. I intend to remedy that and amplify those voices.”
“Nobody can represent the American people when you can’t hear their cries.”
Asked about his legislative priorities, Shrewsbury didn’t hesitate:
“I want to serve on the Senate Labor Committee to strengthen and energize the labor movement and workers rights, to organize unions and begin again to lift wages and working conditions.”
“I also want to serve on the Senate Committee for Veterans Affairs and the Armed Services Committee to get the defense contractors off the neck of the military and move funding for enlisted men. The enlisted military people are from working-class families. They must be respected, honored and prioritized.”
Shrewsbury’s overall legislative priority is “taking on corporate America and making sure working-class people have a voice. As senator, I will echo and amplify that voice. I will work for the people, not the bought bureaucrats of the oligarchy.”
As a proud, patriotic West Virginia veteran, Shrewsbury said the needs and priorities of veterans are close to his heart. He will work to address homelessness and mental health issues of veterans.
Shrewsbury supports transitioning the Affordable Care Act into universal health care because he said he believes health care is a right, not a privilege.
Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade Shrewsbury has spoken out and supported women’s rights to choose. Indeed, what does freedom mean if a person can’t control their own bodies?
In my view, Shrewsbury is a Democrat standing for democracy and freedom.
Here are Zachary’s links:
Stewart Acuff, a Shepherdstown resident, is a co-chair of the West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign. He retired in 2016 after a 40-year career as a union and community organizer. He also served as vice chair of the Atlanta Human Rights Commission and a member of the Atlanta Federal Reserve Advisory Board.