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Supreme Court Debate On Kavanaugh Is Playing Out In West Virginia Senate Race

23 hours ago
Originally published on October 4, 2018 5:26 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court could come down to the votes of just a handful of senators. They are weighing that decision after getting a look today at the FBI's report on the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. One of the most watched senators in that group is Joe Manchin of West Virginia. He's a red state Democrat who has touted his working relationship with the president, and he's fighting to keep his seat in a state that Trump won overwhelmingly. NPR's Sarah McCammon has been talking with voters in Charleston, W.Va.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Across the street from Senator Joe Manchin's Charleston campaign office, several dozen activists gathered in a park last night standing in a circle and lighting candles.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Our time is now. Stop Kavanaugh. Our time is now. Stop Kavanaugh.

MCCAMMON: They held signs with slogans like, just say no, Joe, and Kavanope (ph). That's N-O-P-E. Some wore light green armbands, a sign they'd survived sexual assault. Local activist Carey Jo Grace was arrested this week during a sit-in at Manchin's office here. She says she's tired.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CAREY JO GRACE: A lot of it is - I'm exhausted because I sat in that office over there until almost 2 o'clock in the morning and...

(APPLAUSE)

GRACE: ...Asking Senator Manchin to get off the fence about Judge Kavanaugh.

MCCAMMON: Across town at the county Republican headquarters, volunteer Nancy Kogoy sees Kavanaugh in a totally different light.

NANCY KOGOY: I like him. I think he's an honest individual, and I think he has suffered. His family has suffered. I don't doubt that perhaps sometime in this woman's life something has happened to her. But I don't believe that Brett Kavanaugh was involved in it.

MCCAMMON: Kogoy spent her late afternoon stuffing envelopes for Manchin's Republican opponent, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Manchin is a longtime figure in West Virginia politics who sided with President Trump on several key votes, including his first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. Kogoy says she wants to elect a Republican who will back Trump more reliably than Manchin. She's wondering where he'll land on Kavanaugh.

KOGOY: I think - well, I think he'll do what Chuck Schumer tells him to do.

MCCAMMON: The confirmation fight may be firing up each party's faithful grassroots activists. But in downtown Charleston as workers stepped out for lunches and smoke breaks, other issues were top of mind. At a diner, Eddie Queen says he's sceptical of the allegations against Kavanaugh. And he's more worried about issues like the opioid epidemic and jobs. Queen describes himself as a Democrat but supports Trump.

EDDIE QUEEN: You can see the barges going down the river with coal - full of coal. And you see trains running with coal. This state lives and dies on coal.

MCCAMMON: Queen says he's leaning toward voting for Morrisey, but he's watching how Senator Manchin votes on Kavanaugh. At a nearby farmer's market, Jennifer Piercy says she's supporting Manchin because she aligns with him on other issues. And she wouldn't want to be in Manchin's shoes right now.

JENNIFER PIERCY: It's a situation I would not want to be in at all.

MCCAMMON: Trying to make that vote?

PIERCY: Trying to make that vote. Yes.

MCCAMMON: Yeah, yeah.

PIERCY: Yes.

MCCAMMON: Manchin supported calls for an FBI investigation into the Kavanaugh allegations and said he would announce his decision after seeing those results. He's no doubt also seeing the results of polls. One this week from Gray Television favored Manchin by several points. More popular than Morrisey or Manchin here in West Virginia, Brett Kavanaugh and Donald Trump. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Charleston.

(SOUNDBITE OF MATISYAHU SONG, "LOVE BORN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.