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Parkersburg City Council candidates mull campaigning in a pandemic

PARKERSBURG –Parkersburg City Council candidate Wendy Tuck was looking forward to gathering with folks Saturday for an Independence Day-themed art exhibit at City Park.

But with the number of local COVID-19 cases increasing, she postponed what would have been her first meet-the-candidate event until September.

“The artists did not want to come out while the cases are on the rise,” she said.

Tuck and other council candidates had to alter their approach to campaigning in the primary and may continue to do so going forward.

Tuck, a Democrat, said she made online videos as she walked through her neighborhood, sent out letters and tried to keep voters informed of changes in voting locations.

She’ll face Republican incumbent Councilman Eric Barber on the ballot in November.

Barber said he did some door-to-door campaigning but was cautious about it, knocking and then stepping back off the porch.

“The person could come out and they could stand on the porch and we could talk,” he said.

If the approach had been received poorly, Barber said, he would have stopped.

“Nobody said anything, except for one person, wanted to make sure there was enough distance,” he said.

It’s hard to predict what the future holds with the pandemic, Barber said, but he plans to do some door-to-door campaigning in addition to other approaches for the general election.

District 1 Councilman Dave McCrady, a Democrat, said he would love to be going door to door and shaking hands.

“I’m not much of an elbow-bumper,” he said.

In the primary, he said, he relied on his record and hoped the people in the district knew him and would vote for him. For the general, McCrady is looking at mailers or other ways to get his message out.

“We plan on doing some handouts, stuff like that, that can just be dropped off,” he said.

McCrady is being challenged by Republican Jessica Cottrille, who said she’s considering alternatives to door-to-door campaigning as well.

“We haven’t come up with the exact route we’re going to go yet,” she said. “We have a coupe of different ideas of how we’re going to go about it.”

Councilman J.R. Carpenter, a Democrat representing District 5, said he does a little campaigning everywhere he goes. But he’s expecting to rely more on his record as a two-term councilman in this election.

“In years past, I would go door to door,” he said. “This election, that may be possible but probably not welcome.”

Carpenter said he doesn’t have a Facebook presence and didn’t think it made much of a difference for candidates in contested primary races.

“I do not feel the need to go online whatsoever,” he said.

His opponent, Republican Dell Pomeroy, planned to kick his campaign off Saturday with his family’s annual Independence Day neighborhood block party. He said it was going to be held outside on his property, so there will be plenty of room for people to keep their distance.

“I’m expecting to see maybe a maximum of 30 people,” Pomeroy said.

He said he plans to start walking his neighborhood on weekends, talking to folks about issues of concern. Pomeroy said he’s not particularly concerned about his own health but will observe distancing protocols to protect others.

“I don’t want to be the one to spread something,” he said.

Unopposed in the primary, District 7 Democratic candidate Thomas Rafferty hasn’t done much campaigning beyond putting out signs. Ideally, he would soon be meeting voters in person, but he’s looking at other avenues because of the pandemic.

“(I’ll) possibly do some messaging with door hangers rather than try to meet people face to face,” Rafferty said.

He’s taking on Republican Chris Rexroad, who said he may produce a mailer rather than going door to door, which he would have preferred.

“I would have done that (door to door) even for the primary if that was an option,” he said.

In District 9, Republican Austin Richards is considering mailers, doorknob hangers and perhaps a virtual forum to introduce himself to voters.

“I wanted to do a lot of door-to-door (and) meet-and-greets,” he said.

He’s trying to unseat Councilman Jeff Fox, a Democrat who said his campaigning in the primary, where he was unopposed, was limited to posting signs.

“I went ahead and thought that would be a good way to maintain social distancing and get my name out,” he said.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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