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Byrd, Mikulski rally troops in support of Humphreys

October 29, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A rally Monday that included loud applause, shouting, table pounding, cheers, chants and waving signs ended with a song.

Sens. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., and Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., turned out in support of Democratic congressional candidate Jim Humphreys, who is trying to unseat Republican incumbent Shelley Moore Capito.

Before the crowd of hundreds filed out of a conference room at the Martinsburg Holiday Inn on Foxcroft Avenue, Sen. Byrd joined Helen Harris at a podium, as Harris sang "Amazing Grace." Many in the audience joined in as well.

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Speaking to reporters before the rally, Byrd would not mention Capito by name or give an opinion of her record, but said one could draw a conclusion since he supports her opponent.

By electing Humphreys, West Virginia would have all Democrats in Congress, if longtime Sen. Jay Rockefeller is re-elected, Byrd said.

"Give West Virginia an independent voice, another independent voice," Byrd said.

In his speech to the crowd, Byrd recounted the story of Nathan Hale, who was caught spying on the British during the American Revolution. Hale's last words before he was executed by British soldiers on Sept. 22, 1776, were "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country," Byrd said.

"If Nathan Hale gave one life ... can each of us give one vote for our country?" he said, adding later, "I want Jim Humphreys on my team. The Byrd team."

Byrd's speech was frequently interrupted by shouts, cheers and standing ovations. Byrd - who referred to himself as "Big Daddy" - occasionally pounded the table in front of him, or shook his fist or finger at the crowd.

The crowd, which consisted of more than 200 people, cheered again at Byrd's introduction of Mikulski: "Fame is a vapor. Popularity, an accident. Money takes wings. Those who cheer today may criticize tomorrow. Only one thing endures - character. Barbara Mikulski has it."

Although Byrd would not mention Capito by name, Mikulski did, calling the first-term representative "Capitulating Capito." She also criticized Capito on her stance on women's issues.

Mikulski, of Baltimore, said she knows Humphreys personally. "He's just a great guy. Don't you just really like him?" she said.

"West Virginia has a rendezvous with history. And it has it right here with Jim Humphreys," Mikulski said. The 2nd Congressional District, for which Humphreys is vying, could be the deciding race in who controls the House, Mikulski said.

Humphreys, a Charleston attorney, lost to Capito two years ago.

On the issues, Humphreys said he opposes privatization of Social Security, wants to lower prescription drug and other medical costs for every citizen, wants better job opportunities for West Virginians and favors enhanced education for children - including school construction and higher salaries for teachers.

Environmentally, Humphreys said he opposes drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuse in Alaska, and is against a plan that would open Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a nuclear waste repository.

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