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Manchin says he won't endorse Clinton or Obama before primary

April 26, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Gov. Joe Manchin said Friday that he will not endorse either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama to be the Democratic Party's presidential nominee before West Virginia's primary election, which is less than three weeks away.

"I want an open primary," Manchin said during a visit to the Eastern Panhandle that included appearances in Berkeley and Jefferson counties. "I want everyone to feel welcome. I've been encouraging, recruiting people to run for offices, and I think it would be wrong for the so-called head of the (state) party to show favoritism."

As chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, Manchin said he wanted to take a leading role in uniting the party to win in November after the nominee is decided.

"When that happens, we got to all sit down and bring everybody back together and ... and I think that, hopefully I'll be able to do that," Manchin said in an interview at Eagle School Intermediate School north of Martinsburg.

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Manchin's visit coincided with the announcement that the school was one of six in the nation to receive the 2008 Panasonic School Change Award.

"Governor, this school is an example of No Child Left Behind working, and we're very proud of that," said principal Margaret Kursey, who was notified of the honor Thursday.

Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny P. Arvon II recalled hearing the news from Kursey in a telephone call.

"The voice is in a high pitch and it was almost like a scream," Arvon told those gathered in the school cafeteria.

In more than one speech Friday, Manchin emphasized the need for West Virginians to embrace a "can-do attitude," and quoted figure skating champion Scott Hamilton, who said "the only disability in life is a bad attitude."

Manchin's first of five public appearances was at Independent Fire Co., where he took part in the ceremonial signing of legislation that authorizes the Jefferson County Commission to create a joint emergency services agency.

Little more than an hour later, Manchin presented World War I veteran Frank Woodruff Buckles of Jefferson County with highway signs that will name a portion of the four-lane route for W.Va. 9 in the county in his honor. Buckles, 107, is believed to be the last surviving American veteran of WWI.

Representatives of both U.S. Sens. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller and Robert C. Byrd read letters on their behalf to a throng of people who packed the Jefferson County Development Authority's offices in Kearneysville, W.Va., for the ceremony.

Byrd was pleased that the state was recognizing Buckles, who he considered a "good friend" who he met for the first time in the 1950s at the Bardane Community Center.

"I remember that occasion because at that event, Frank pointed a finger at me and said, 'That young man is going places,'" Byrd said in his congratulatory letter.

After a legislative resolution to name the road in Buckles' honor passed the House of Delegates, but didn't make it out the state Senate in the waning hours of the regular session, Sen. John Unger said he asked Manchin to act.

The request did not generate "one peep" of controversy that often comes with typical road and bridge naming requests, Manchin said.

"... To be able to name this part, this portion of Route 9, is something special that I, on behalf of a grateful state and the wonderful people in this great state, is an honor for me to do," Manchin said just before presenting Buckles with a green rectangular sign trimmed in white that reads "Frank Woodruff Buckles Highway - Distinguished WWI Veteran."

After the ceremony, Manchin took part in honoring Jefferson County educators and staff, then did the same for Berkeley County Schools at Eagle School Intermediate.

Manchin rounded out his visit with a ceremonial bill signing for legislation that allows people with impaired vision to use bioptic telescope-like devices as a means to obtain a driver's license, dedication of rest-stop renovations along Interstate 81 in northern Berkeley County and the Democratic Women's Club spring dinner at the Holiday Inn.

Berkeley County Democratic Party leaders on Friday afternoon staged a "sign wave" at their downtown Martinsburg headquarters to welcome Manchin and Rockefeller. The senator was expected to participate and speak at the Women's Club dinner and announced a series of three public appearances in Berkeley County today, beginning at the 167th Airlift Wing Air National Guard base at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport at 11:15 a.m.

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