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Progressive Advocacy Group Joins Political Landscape for 2018

By Staff | Jan 31, 2018

Graffiti was able to sit down recently with Ryan Frankenberry, the executive director of the newly-formed West Virginia Working Families Party.

Graffiti: Briefly describe the scope and purpose of the West Virginia chapter of the Working Families Party.

Frankenberry: West Virginia Working Families Party launched at the end of August as a major new political player in the state to develop and support progressive candidates and move legislation to benefit working families. Backed by a coalition of individuals, community organizations, and local labor affiliates, West Virginia Working Families Party is the state arm of Working Families Party. The national Party is a progressive political movement responsible for organizing resistance to the Trump Administration as well as successful state campaigns to raise the minimum wage, grant earned sick leave to workers, and other measures to improve life for working families. West Virginia Working Families Party is the 13th state affiliate of the national Working Families Party.

Graffiti: As executive director, what does your role entail?

Frankenberry: I am tasked with managing the day-to-day operations of the organization and supporting our state committee in recruiting, training, and electing candidates. I help provide resources and assistance to members of our coalition in the work they do, and I work with state and national partners to develop and implement communication and voter outreach strategies to encourage voters to vote their values.

Graffiti: What plans are on deck for the organization in the near future?

Frankenberry: We are planning a statewide tour of events to provide opportunities for people to learn more about the Working Families Party and how we can help each other elect candidates, impact elections and legislation, and move our communities forward. We also have local chapters forming in towns and counties across the state. We are also developing an endorsement plan.

Graffiti: Does the Working Families Party plan to eventually seek ballot status in WV, as it does in New York?

Frankenberry: Our focus is being a progressive voice for the state’s working families and using that voice to elect people’s champions and win campaigns that move people forward, like a higher minimum wage and earned sick leave. Though West Virginia has a mechanism for third parties on the ballot and Working Families does have ballot status in a handful of states, it’s not on our current agenda.

Graffiti: Will the WVWFP focus on legislative races only or also include county races like county commission or clerk?

Frankenberry: WVWFP is strategic and supports candidates in races where we can have the most impact for working families. WFP’s electoral work ranges from electing pro-public education schools boards to supporting Congressional candidates.

Graffiti: What role will the WVWFP play in relation to the two major parties in WV?

Frankenberry: WVWFP is an independent political organization, tied to neither major party. We are agnostic about party, supporting candidates who share our working families values.

Graffiti: Are there volunteer opportunities for interested West Virginians?

Frankenberry: Yes! We are forming local chapters across the state, and we’d love to have interested folks contact us. We will also need lots of help as we begin endorsing candidates and doing the work it takes to elect them. There are also opportunities to be connected directly with WFP endorsed candidates to help with their campaigns. Please contact wv@workingfamilies.org

Graffiti: What else should readers know about the WVWFP?

Frankenberry: We are an intentionally diverse organization, with equal representation from across the three congressional districts. Our state committee is comprised of women and men of all backgrounds, and four of our five co-chairs are women. We work with traditional community and labor organizations, as well as more recently formed resistance groups and have representation from all on our committee.

Our committee is still growing and we are still looking for individuals across WV to join us. We will be opening an individual membership opportunity very soon. I encourage folks to like us on Facebook and sign up for emails there. www.wvworkingfamilies.org

H. S. Leigh Koonce is a sixth-generation West Virginian. He writes from Jefferson County.