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Democratic Sen. Manchin Backed Kavanaugh. Will Red W.Va. Re-Elect Him?


Only one Democrat voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. It was Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Manchin faces a political reality. His state is getting more dominated by Republicans, and he's in a tight race against the state's Republican attorney general, Patrick Morrisey. But there are doubts about whether supporting Kavanaugh is really going to help Manchin on Election Day. Here's West Virginia Public Radio's Dave Mistich.

DAVE MISTICH, BYLINE: As Manchin stood on the Senate floor to cast his vote to confirm Kavanaugh on Saturday, protesters yelled shame from the gallery.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) Shame, shame, shame.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The clerk will suspend - the sergeant at arms will restore order in the gallery.

MISTICH: By that evening, a sign saying Shame on Manchin hung over Manchin's office back in West Virginia's state capital, Charleston. In the run-up to the vote, Jamie Miller was arrested while protesting at his campaign office. Miller, who's an artist, also went to Washington with a group of sexual assault survivors to meet with Manchin. She says he was attentive and listened to their concerns, but after last weekend's vote, she's not sure what she'll do on Election Day.

JAMIE MILLER: I didn't vote for him during the primary, but I have voted for him in the past, and now I'm really on the fence about what to do.

MISTICH: Karan Ireland is a Charleston city councilwoman. She says she's always recognized that Manchin is no liberal but has defended him in the past.

KARAN IRELAND: I have been a person who has been the person to say to someone that we need to recognize that West Virginia Democrats are more conservative, that we're a state with an aging population and that, you know, Joe Manchin is better than his opponent.

MISTICH: But after Kavanaugh's confirmation, Ireland says she won't vote for Manchin in November. Emily Comer came to a similar decision. She's a public schoolteacher. Even though West Virginia's public school teachers went on strike earlier this year and the teachers' union support Manchin, Comer says she will leave her ballot blank.

EMILY COMER: I absolutely will not be voting for Senator Manchin in November. I won't be voting for Patrick Morrisey either. I would never vote for him, but I just - we don't have a candidate that is going to fight for us.

MISTICH: All three women said they hope the next Democratic Senate candidate from West Virginia will be more progressive than Manchin. He frequently breaks ranks with his more liberal Democratic colleagues in the Senate. For Mike Caputo, that voting record is a sign that Manchin is an independent thinker. Caputo is a Democratic state lawmaker from Manchin's home in Marion County.

MIKE CAPUTO: Joe kind of weighed out what he thought the majority of West Virginians wanted him to do and he did that - he acted accordingly. Some people's going to be happy about that and some is going to be mad about it but, you know, you can't throw the baby out with the bathwater, as they say. You know, we're never going to agree 100 percent of the time with anybody.

MISTICH: But Caputo says Manchin isn't likely to win any votes from more conservative, independent or nonaffiliated voters with his vote for Kavanaugh. And Caputo believes Manchin has certainly lost some support from progressive Democrats after this weekend. Manchin's future now hinges on whether voters feel so strongly about his vote for Kavanaugh that they abandon him or if they want to continue the state's tradition of sending moderate Democrats to Washington. For NPR News, I'm Dave Mistich in Morgantown, W.Va.


Dave Mistich
Originally from Washington, W.Va., Dave Mistich joined NPR part-time as an associate producer for the Newcast unit in September 2019 — after nearly a decade of filing stories for the network as a Member station reporter at West Virginia Public Broadcasting. In July 2021, he also joined the Newsdesk as a part-time reporter.
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