The 2018 midterm election was one of the biggest such elections in recent history, turning the political landscape of many states, including West Virginia, into a battleground for several months.
Throughout the year, the Mountain State was visited by powerful figures in politics (namely, Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump), with both men visiting Wheeling on separate occasions.
On July 25, Vice President Pence made his first trip to Wheeling, as the 22nd stop on a nationwide tour. In the lead-up to his arrival, many Ohio Valley residents on either end of the political spectrum expressed excitement for his visit.
“I think regardless of political views it’s always good when Wheeling gets some recognition and people from D.C. come down and talk to us,” said Clayton McCabe from Wheeling.
Even local lawmakers were excited to have the Vice President stop by.
“This is really exciting. We love to showoff what’s going on here because it’s a great story to tell,” said Congressman Bill Johnson. “With how the policies of tax reform, fewer regulations, putting Americans back in charge, and good old fashioned American ingenuity and innovation are having an effect on the quality of lives of people living here in our region.”
During his speech he hit on a wide range of topics, like investing in our military and veterans, the construction of a wall on our southern border, and coal.
“I’m happy to report to you coal production in 2017 in the Mountain State jumped over 16 percent compared to last year,” the Vice President said in his speech. ”Coal is coming back right here in the heartland of America.”
The Vice President even shouted out some local favorites, like DiCarlo’s Pizza and Coleman’s Fish Market!
Just a couple months later, Ohio Valley residents got word that another big name visitor would be making a stop in Wheeling — President Donald Trump. His visit was to hold a rally for Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the Republican candidate for West Virginia’s U.S. Senate seat. Leading up, many of his supporters were excited to see the President in person.
“I think it’s going to be wonderful. I think it’s going to make people inspired to do better and see what he’s doing,” said Yorkville resident Juanita Mitchell.
Other residents, however, were not as warm to the development.
“I personally couldn’t care. I’m not a Trump fan,” said Areonna Martin of Martins Ferry. “I feel like he can stay in DC, but I mean he’s here to do his business. So I’m sure many people will be excited.”
On September 30, President Trump arrived at Wheeling Ohio County Airport on Air Force One, met by both supporters and members of the media. He greeted the crowd, exchanged handshakes, and then made his way to WesBanco Arena.
Closer to the arena, the scene was not as cohesive, but it was still very peaceful. Dozens of peaceful protesters lined streets in Downtown Wheeling, coming from organizations like Marchers Ohio Valley Empowered (MOVE and United Automobile Workers.
“These people standing in line think that they are supporting a President that supports them, and he doesn’t — and I feel really, more than anything, just sad because it’s people who don’t know that they aren’t voting in their best interest and that can only be remedied with love and public education,” said Kala Babu, one of the peaceful protesters.
That did not faze the President’s supporters. Thousands of people, many toting pro-Trump signs or wearing pro-Trump clothing, were present and vocal during the rally. When President Trump took the stage, he spoke for over an hour: expressing his support for Morrisey, musing over the health care debate, touting the economic growth under his administration, and discussing international affairs.
President Trump was also joined by some of the biggest names in West Virginia politics, such as Morrisey and Gov. Jim Justice.
In the election five weeks later, however, Morrisey would end up losing to Sen. Joe Manchin (D), the incumbent.