Newspaper Articles


Charleston Gazette
May 10, 1960

Eyes of Nation On State Primary

By Thomas F. Stafford
Political Writer

West Virginia voters take over today, and it’s anybody’s guess what they will do for the cause of political history.

Altogether, 1,076,087 West Virginians are qualified to vote, but according to those willing to estimate the outcome only a shade better than half will go to the polls.

This would be an improvement over 1956, when less than 47 per cent of the registered voters cast ballots.

The entry of Democratic Sen. Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota and Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts into the presidential primary, plus a tight battle on both the Democratic and Republican tickets for Governor, has sharpened interest in the outcome.

Humphrey and Kennedy—in a fight that could make or break Kennedy as a presidential contender and put Humphrey slightly into the running or finish him off—both are hoping for victory. But neither would make a firm prediction of victory on the eve of the primary.

Humphrey spent Tuesday campaigning in Kanawha and the edge of Putnam county; Kennedy’s swing was over a larger area—from Parkersburg to Charleston. Humphrey spent the day making speeches with a lot of good-natured banter on the side while Kennedy shook the hands of hundreds.

There was a difference in the attitude of the two men. The man from Minnesota was the personification of confidence. His adversary, the young fellow who gave him a pasting in the Wisconsin primary several weeks ago, was more grim.

The presidential primary, top-billed as a crucial test for Democrats seeking the Democratic nomination, took the edge off the gubernatorial races, but in the last few days the fight for the right of a Democrat to run in the general election has begun to gain the headlines.

This was after State Treasurer Orel J. Skeen of Ripley released a tape recording to The Gazette along with a sworn statement alleging that Atty. Gen. W. W. Barron offered him $65,000 to stay out of the gubernatorial race. They are in a three-way battle with State Democratic Chairman Hulett C. Smith of Beckley for the nomination.

Barron denied having made such an offer, with Skeen inviting him to take a lie-detector test. Barron declined, saying that matter would be decided after the primary in the courts (he has brought a $300,000 slander suit against Skeen).

Reports are that Smith has benefited from this exchange, but whether he will overtake Barron in today’s balloting is a moot question. Barron was looked upon as the front runner before the release of the Skeen statement.

In the Republican gubernatorial primary former U.S. Senator Chapman Revercomb of Charleston, running as an independent, is opposing Harold E. Neely of Hinton, former state institution’s commissioner and the candidate of Gov. Underwood and National Committeeman Walter Hallanan.

Revercomb’s strength stems from the fact that he has long been a contender for statewide office, and has twice won the right to represent West Virginia in the Senate. Neely is a relative newcomer to politics, but is strengthened in his bid by the fact that two of the most powerful people in his party are for him.

Balloting at the state’s 2,750 precincts will start at 6:30 a. m. and end at 7:30 p. m. A trend as to the ultimate outcome should be apparent within three or four hours after the polls close.

Humphrey and Kennedy will return to Washington this morning to look after affairs there, but plan to return to the state by nightfall to await the outcome. The gubernatorial candidates will travel to their homes today to vote, and will return to their headquarters here later to listen to the tabulations.

By custom another important race is that for the U. S. Senate, but this year there are only two contenders—Democratic incumbent Jennings Randolph of Elkins and Gov. Underwood. Hence, their big fight will come after today—sometime next summer when the general election race gets into full swing.

The usual reports of victory came from three of the gubernatorial candidates. The others—Barron and Smith—declined to comment. Here is what the trio said:

Skeen—“I fully expect to win the Democratic nomination for Governor. I believe the good people of West Virginia will join in my endeavor to establish a form of government based on high moral and ethical principles.”

Neely—“I am confident of victory.”

Revercomb—“Reports coming to me in these last few hours before the voting are most encouraging and I hope—and I believe—that I will be nominated.”

In the state’s six congressional races Rep. Ken Hechler of the Fourth District is the only person with opposition in the primary. Nye King of Huntington is running against him.

In the bidding for elective state offices it’s an entirely different situation. One of the toughest races for an incumbent is that between Secretary of State Joe F. Burdett and W. E. Burchett of Huntington, former head of the State Police. Burchett has waged a vigorous campaign and has built up powerful support.

Auditor Edgar B. Sims appears to be headed for another term (he has held the office since 1932), and Agriculture Commission John T. Johnson appears to have no strong opposition.

With treasurer and attorney general up for grabs, four Democrats are in contention in each race to succeed Skeen and Barron, respectively.

In the Republican races for these same election offices only one person is running for auditor, treasurer and agriculture commission, and two are running for secretary of state and attorney general.

In the last stages of their battle, Humphrey, a Congregationalist, was generally credited by the host of political writers here from out of state for the primary with holding the edge over Kennedy, a Catholic. Only 4.9 per cent of the population is Catholic.

Humphrey has smarted from the Kennedy contention that almost nobody gives him a chance to win the nomination in Los Angeles this summer.

Humphrey retorted that Kennedy can’t win in November, even if he get the nomination, because he won’t get the Midwest farm vote, a key factor in past elections.

The religious question has come often into the campaign, with Kennedy contending that “West Virginia, with its great tradition, is (not) going to make its judgment on the basis of religion.”

In 1928 Al Smith, a Catholic won the presidential primary but lost the state in the general election.

Humphrey, in a St. Albans radio interview Monday morning, said he thinks Kennedy has talked too much about the religious issue. He went on:

“The people of West Virginia have no more intolerance than people of other states. Every vote each of us gains on the religious issue he’ll lose on the other side.”

Although this popularity contest will ultimately run in favor of one or the other, its outcome will not be binding on the state’s 25-vote delegation to the Los Angeles convention. In a poll by The Gazette 74 of those running for delegate declined to say where they stand on the presidential candidates.

The weather prediction is cloudy and cool today. This is expected also to add to the higher turnout.


Underwood Sees Concern for State Purely Political

Two Republicans Reply to Debate

WASHINGTON - (AP) - Gov. Cecil Underwood said Monday night the concern Sen. John Kennedy (D-Mass) and Sen. Hubert Humphrey (D-Minn) have been showing for hungry people in West Virginia was designed only to win votes in today's presidential primary.

"They only began showing an interest in our state a few weeks ago," the West Virginia Republican said. "It wasn't until they began looking for votes that they began to bleed for our problems. They are having a political feast on our poverty."

Underwood's remarks came in a discussion with Sen. Thruston [sic] Morton of Kentucky, Republican national chairman, broadcast on the Mutual Broadcasting System.

The broadcast was designed as a reply to the Kennedy-Humphrey debate broadcast by Mutual last week, Morton had demanded equal time from all radio and television stations that carried the debate between the two Democratic-presidential hopefuls.

In agreeing to the request, Mutual said it would offer the program to its 458 affiliates on an optional basis, leaving it up to the station whether to broadcast the Republican reply.

Morton described the debate as a "carefully planned attack on the Administration of President Eisenhower," with each Democrat agreeing wholeheartedly with the charges the other made against the Republicans.

"A pillow fight between two small boys would be more controversial," he said.

Much of the program was devoted to discussion of the problems of West Virginia, which Underwood agreed has been hit hard by mechanization of the coal industry. Underwood said since 1956 some 76,000 coal mining jobs have "simply vanished" due to mechanization.

To charges the Eisenhower Administration had done little to help the state, Underwood replied:

"The value of food distributed in West Virginia under the surplus commodity program is three times that of Minnesota and Massachusetts. And the jobless get just as hungry in those states as they do in West Virginia.

"Kennedy and Humphrey have not been much concerned with the hungry in their own states. This shows their interest here is purely political."

Underwood added that four years ago Eisenhower had proposed a program to Congress that was "a sincere effort to get at the heart of the problem of pockets of unemployment." He said it was superior to the three measures now pending before Congress.

Underwood said, however, the picture was not all bad in his state. The coal miners still at work, he said, received higher wages than before.

And the Governor said that in the Charleston area was "the largest concentration of the chemicals industry in the world."

"The living costs are among the highest in the nation, which is an indication of how prosperous it is," he said.


Aid for State Is Pledged By Kennedy

By Don Marsh
Staff Writer

Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy made an election pledge to introduce a program to Congress for aid to West Virginia if he is nominated and elected President.

Kennedy made a last-minute television appearance prior to today’s showdown with Minnesota Sen. Hubert Humphrey in the states Democratic presidential primary.

“I pledge to the people of West Virginia tonight if I’m nominated and elected President, within 60 days of the start of my Administration, I will introduce a program to the Congress for aid to West Virginia,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said his program will include legislation for area redevelopment (if it hasn’t been passed by then), shifting of defense contracts to depressed areas, federal minimum standards for unemployment insurance and more effective food distribution to those of need.

“I also pledge that I will appoint a commission with orders to report back to me within 60 days for full recommendations for effective legislative action to deal with the long-range industrial problems and opportunities of West Virginia,” Kennedy said.

The senator earlier in the day had expressed optimism on his chances in the state’s primary. This was at Parkersburg, where speaking from a truck bed in a cold drizzle, he said:

“Now a good many pollsters and a good many people, including myself, have stated that we have in West Virginia an uphill fight. But my own feeling is that we may fool them tomorrow. I think it is very possible.[“]

It was one of the few implications that Kennedy thinks he might beat Sen. Hubert Humphrey in the state’s Democratic presidential primary.

In spite of his optimism, some observers felt that it should be close but no cigar for the senator despite indications that his strength had increased during the last days of the campaign.

At a press conference earlier in Huntington, he was asked if he had changed his mind about getting only 40 per cent of the vote. “The statement still stands,” he said.

Kennedy continued to say that he didn’t think Humphrey could win the Democratic nomination even if he won the West Virginia.

Phrasing it tactfully at his news conference, he said he thought any Democrat nominated by the convention could defeat Vice President Richard Nixon. He has said repeatedly that the convention won’t name Humphrey.

He added, “If I’m defeated here, I think quote obviously it’ll be a wide open race.”

Kennedy spent most of the day shaking hands with industrial workers and pedestrians in Huntington, Charleston and Parkersburg.

Kennedy said that today’s election would have the “broadest effect” on the nominating convention and said state voters had it in their power to decide who might be the next President.

In Huntington, he received endorsement from the president and vice president of steelworkers local 37, toured plants, shook hands and talked to reporters.

He was scheduled to tour plants in Charleston early this morning and to fly to Washington for a speech. He said he would return to Charleston this evening to hear election results.


Labor's Aid Requested By Hubert

By John Weyland
By The Associated Press

Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey (D-Minn) Monday pleaded with organized labor to help him in the few hours left to win the West Virginia Democratic presidential primary election.

"I want you to give me your support in the next 24 hours," Humphrey told 20 business agents of local unions during an afternoon meeting.

"If you think I'm right, you owe me your votes. Above all, I hope you tell your membership, Get everybody out to vote."

Humphrey started his speech by lecturing labor leaders for not doing more for him in view of his record of supporting legislation they endorse.

"I've been trying to campaign in West Virginia with a shoestring cut in half," he said. "I haven't gotten one penny from labor in this state."

He added that "had the labor movement in Wisconsin been where it should have been, they would have voted for Humphrey."

"I had hoped I might find one union after another endorsing me," he said. "If you want to have a voice in the Democratic Party, you have to unite."

Humphrey detailed for the agents the financial problems he has been having in West Virginia in his bat[t]le with Sen. John F. Kennedy (D-Mass). He argued that sin[c]e he couldn't come close to mat[c]hing Kennedy's money, he had to make up with the kind of support that labor could give him.

He predicted that he would have a better chance of becoming President if he were the Democratic nominee because, as he saw it, Kennedy would not be popular in the Midwest because of his voting record on agricultural measures.

"Do you think a candidate like Kennedy who voted 27 times for the Benson-Eisenhower farm program can be strong in the Midwest?" he asked.

In his speech which ran about 30 minutes - the longest he delivered Monday - Humphrey admitted "it will be a bit difficult to nominate Humphrey.

Then he added:

"It will be a bit difficult to nominate anybody who can get elected."

Humphrey was successful with his plea to the unions making up the Charleston Building Construction Trades Council. Within an hour after hearing him, they announced their official endorsement of his candidacy.

In other West Virginia cities, Humphrey said, he had gotten some help from the local unions, but never an official endorsement. Statewide, only the Teamsters have come out for him.

Returning to his hotel for a short rest before an evening of campaigning, Humphrey again talked about the money shortage that has dogged him here. He said that, all in all, he had spent less than $20,000.

How much Kennedy put on in his campaign Humphrey did not pretend to know, but he estimated the amount ran to about twice what it had been in Wisconsin.

Asked if Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. hadn't "muddied up the campaign more than anyone else," Humphrey said yes. He added quickly, "But we have been friends and we will be again. I have no hates. I've been in politics too long for such things."


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