Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks on the Kermit Fireplace & Rescue Headquarters Station on Friday in Kermit, West Virginia. | Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail by way of AP
The liberal firebrand attracts nods and even a couple of cheers on a visit by rural West Virginia.
KERMIT, W. Va. — It was a startling spectacle within the coronary heart of Trump nation: Not less than a dozen supporters of the president — some sporting MAGA stickers — nodding their heads, at instances even clapping, for liberal firebrand Elizabeth Warren.
The sighting alone of a Democratic presidential candidate on this city of fewer than 400 individuals — in a county the place greater than 4 in 5 voters solid their poll for Trump in 2016 — was uncommon. Warren’s crew was apprehensive about how she’d be acquired.
Story Continued Beneath
About 150 individuals gathered on the Kermit Fireplace & Rescue Headquarters Station to listen to the Massachusetts senator and former Harvard professor speak about what she desires to do to combat the opioid epidemic. Trump-supporting faculty college students in dishevelled t-shirts, housewives in pearls, and the hearth chief wearing uniform joined liberal retirees sporting rainbow “Persist” shirts and academics with six-figure pupil mortgage debt.
COUNTDOWN TO 2020
The race for 2020 begins now. Keep within the know. Comply with our presidential election protection.
By signing up you comply with obtain electronic mail newsletters or alerts from POLITICO. You’ll be able to unsubscribe at any time.
Kermit is likely one of the epicenters of the opioid habit epidemic. The toll is seen. The neighborhood middle is shuttered. Fireplace vehicles are many years previous. When Warren requested individuals initially of the occasion to lift their palms in the event that they knew someone who’s been “caught within the grips of habit,” most palms went up.
“That’s why I’m right here in the present day,” she mentioned.
Warren entered the room from behind a big American flag draped within the station. Roving round a circle of individuals seated in fold-out chairs, she tried to strike a tone equal components empathy and fury, whereas avoiding pity. She went full prarie populist, telling individuals their ache and struggling was attributable to predatory pharmaceutical barons.
The 63-year-old hearth chief, Wilburn “Tommy” Preece, warned Warren and her crew beforehand that the realm was “Trump nation” and to not essentially count on a pleasant reception. However he additionally advised her that the city would welcome anybody, of any celebration, who needed to deal with the opioid disaster. Preece was the primary responder to a reported overdose two years in the past solely to find that the sufferer was his youthful brother Timmy, who died.
Preece mentioned after the occasion that he voted for Trump and that the president has revitalized the realm economically. However he gave Warren props for displaying up.
“She performed good,” he mentioned.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks on the Kermit Fireplace & Rescue Headquarters Station on Friday in Kermit, West Virginia. Kermit is likely one of the epicenters of the opioid habit epidemic. | Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail by way of AP
LeeAnn Blankenship, a 38-year-old coach and supervisor at a house visitation firm who grew up in Kermit and wore a pointy pink go well with, mentioned she could now assist Warren in 2020 after voting for Trump in 2016.
“She’s ol’ nation woman like anybody else,” she mentioned of Warren, who grew up in Oklahoma. “She’s earned the place she is, it wasn’t given to her. I respect that.”
However Warren didn’t come to rural West Virginia primarily looking for votes. The tiny state probably gained’t resolve the nomination, and is all however sure to again Trump within the common election.
As a substitute, Warren was right here to attempt to ship a message that she’s severe about tackling the issues of distant communities like this one.
The “opioid battle” is a medical downside quite than a behavioral or regulation enforcement one, Warren argued. Her plan is modeled on the federal government’s response in 1990 to the HIV/AIDS disaster, as she defined in a Medium publish earlier this week.
“However we bought a second downside on this nation and it’s greed,” she mentioned. “Folks didn’t get addicted all on their very own, they bought quite a lot of company assist. They bought quite a lot of assist from firms that made large cash off getting individuals addicted and conserving them addicted.”
Kermit was a topic of a Pulitzer Prize successful sequence in 2016 that discovered drug wholesalers supplied a single pharmacy within the 392-person city with 9 million hydrocodone tablets over simply two years. Warren’s plan would dole out $100 billion over the following decade to states, cities, and nonprofits, with more money going to cities and counties with the best ranges of overdoses.
“Proper right here in Mingo County, persons are on the entrance traces of this opioid epidemic and it is a approach to attract consideration to the urgency of the second,” she advised reporters after the city corridor.
Warren’s four-stop tour Friday and Saturday took her from the small cities of Kermit and Chillicothe, Ohio to Columbus, Ohio and Cincinnati. The latter’s narcotics downside is so unhealthy that the native paper assigned a reporter to the heroin beat.
Warren’s strategy to the opioid disaster — which requires treating victims and punishing perpetrators — largely mirrors her response to the monetary disaster, when she referred to as for jailing bankers and offering mass help for householders.
Her journey is the most recent iteration of her marketing campaign technique to differentiate as essentially the most substantive and well-prepared candidate within the sprawling Democratic area. Every time Warren rolls out a coverage proposal — virtually invariably with the theme of curbing company energy and Washington corruption — her crew schedules on-the-ground occasions to attract additional consideration.
When she introduced her plan to interrupt up large expertise firms, Warren went to the South by Southwest tech convention after which to Lengthy Island Metropolis, New York the place Amazon had deliberate to construct a headquarters. She whistle-stopped by Tennessee, Alabama, and the Mississippi delta after she unveiled a housing proposal geared toward closing the racial wealth hole.
A Republican protest — or “Trump assist rally” — was organized a couple of hundred yards away from Warren’s occasion in Kermit. However inside the hearth station was remarkably devoid of partisanship, even when the subject was political.
Requested late Friday what caught along with her from the go to, Warren mentioned it was the second when she requested who had been personally affected by the opioid disaster and virtually everybody’s palms went up.
“I used to be within the city the place the ache of that call by the federal government to not intrude was felt exhausting,” she mentioned.
As Warren posed for selfies after the city corridor, a number of individuals pressed notes into her hand that she learn later within the automotive. “Assist our city of Kermit, West Virginia any approach you’ll be able to to assist us be capable to cut back the drug abuse,” learn one letter.
“Lots of people advised me,‘You’re within the reddest of the purple right here,’” Warren mentioned. However “I like being right here.”
This text tagged underneath:
Lacking out on the most recent scoops? Join POLITICO Playbook and get the most recent information, each morning — in your inbox.