It is interesting how a few people can change the political complexity of an entire county; indeed, an entire state. Looking back at history — some distant and some not so long ago — people may be welcoming a brilliant light they see at the end of the political tunnel, while others may realize the light is that of a fast approaching run-away train which cannot be evaded.
For the first time in close to 90 years, it appears there will be a return to the two-party system in Logan County. And for the first time maybe ever in its history, there are more Republican candidates seeking offices in Logan County than Democrats. Maybe it’s time to take a look at this situation from a historical viewpoint.
Logan became a Democratic stronghold during the 1800s, in my opinion, because of one man — President Abraham Lincoln. For the same reason, nearly the rest of the Mountain State stayed Republican until 1932.
We all know that West Virginia became a state in 1863 as a result of the great civil war that divided the country into what is known as the North and the South. What hasn’t been given a great deal of thought is that our state was also divided into a North versus South scenario. By this, I mean Logan County, which was much larger than today, then consisting of all of what is now Mingo County, provided its own Confederate army.
In most parts of the area, especially near the county seat of Logan, residents were actually southern sympathizers with its political leaders opposing the separation from Virginia. Many prominent citizens of the area even owned slaves. The fact that northern forces burned both the Boone County courthouse and the Logan courthouse during the Civil War speaks volumes as to why its residents despised the Republican president whose birthday we celebrate in less than a week.
So from the 1800s until 1924, the Democratic Party reigned in nearly every aspect of the political field in Logan County. It’s interesting as to the history behind the sudden rise of the Republicans in Logan. But what I know is it started with Warren Harding winning the presidency in 1920. In many ways, Harding’s short time as president mirror that of the current president.
Harding, a former newspaper editor in Ohio, saw his administration darkened by several of his cabinet appointments, who were involved in many scandalous schemes. One involved Attorney General Harry Daugherty, who refused to allow an investigative committee access to Justice Department records and refused to take the witness stand in his own defense.
Harding’s sudden death came in 1923 and he never really knew of all of the corruption his chosen department heads would be involved in. However, historians widely agree that it is likely he would have been impeached had he lived. As it is, he is known as one of the worst presidents in American history.
Vice President Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as president and was well-known to be a small-government conservative. By installing public confidence back in the White House and embodying the spirit of the middle class, Coolidge was elected president in 1924. Perhaps it was his leadership that inspired Logan Countians to vote Republican.
More interesting is that two sons of the well-known feud leader Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield, who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, would be elected back-to-back as Logan County sheriffs on the Republican ticket: Tennis in 1924 and Joe in 1928. For eight years, Republicans would rule in Logan County, replacing their former boss, Don Chafin. One has to wonder had ole’ Devil Anse been alive in 1924 if he would have allowed a son to brand himself as a Lincoln Republican.
After Herbert Hoover replaced Coolidge as president in the election of 1928, the country seemed to be on an economic upswing when the bottom dropped out and the Great Depression took hold. As the entire nation suffered, even more so did people of rural Appalachia. By 1932, when Franklin Roosevelt promised the nation a “New Deal,” Logan County, like every county in the state of West Virginia, went Democratic. Logan, along with the neighboring counties of Mingo and Boone, have basically remained Democratic-controlled ever since, with few Republican candidates even being on election ballots.
Things took a big turn back in the election of 2000, at least on the national level, as West Virginia voters chose George W. Bush over Democratic opponent John Kerry. Despite winning the state vote, Logan, Mingo and Boone still remained Democratic, but the writing was on the wall. Kerry narrowly defeated Bush in Logan 7,877 to 7,047, while Mingo results were 5,983 to 4,612, and Boone County results were 5,933 for Kerry and 4,207 for Bush.
By the time Barack Obama became a Democratic candidate for president in the election of 2008 and the coal industry was spiraling, voters showed their disdain for him — at least in Logan County — by casting more votes for an inmate in prison than for the man who would serve two terms as U.S. President.
In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton was soundly defeated in West Virginia by Donald Trump’s promise of revitalizing the economically depressed coal mining industry. Former President Bill Clinton, who had won handily twice in West Virginia — the first time being in 1992 — was nearly run out of town when he campaigned for his wife in Logan during her unsuccessful run in 2016 against current President Donald Trump. Coal mining was still suffering.
So, here we are in 2020 and our state is still a small universe that politically belongs to President Trump, especially in southern West Virginia.
On the local level, I can’t help but wonder how Trump’s influence will matter to the selection of candidates who will appear on the ballot come November. I mean, will voters vote for Republican candidates simply because of the president, or will they split party ranks and vote for the man or woman who may be best suited for the position? I suspect there will be a little of both.
Anyway, there are several good candidates on both sides of the political fence in the upcoming May Primary Election. As someone who has been around the political hog pen for a good while, I wish only the best for each person, regardless of political affiliation.
Here are the latest county voters’ registrations as supplied by the Logan County Clerk’s office. Of a total of 25,376 voters, there are: Democrats, 15,362; Republicans, 4,242; Non-Partisan, 3,261; Independents, 2,392, and 73 other registered voters.
Coal has long been “king” in Logan County and southern West Virginia. “Long live the king.”
Unfortunately, the “king” is dying a silent death and we may not even be able to afford the funeral.
I truly love the great state of West Virginia and my native Logan County.