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Jones (R) upends Smith (D) in mayor's race (Charleston, West Virginia)
The Charleston Gazette ^ | 5/21/03 | Greg Stone

Posted on 05/20/2003 11:11:04 PM PDT by LdSentinal

Seizing momentum as the campaign wore on, Republican Danny Jones romped to victory as Charleston’s next mayor Tuesday night, capturing more than 57 percent of the vote over Democrat Chris Smith.

Jones, energized by $75,000 worth of television ads and $17,000 in mass mailings in the last few weeks of the campaign, overcame Smith’s substantial primary campaign momentum to win.

Jones said he knew he would be victorious on election night after seeing the first precincts tabulated from the West Side, where he won handily.

He promised to stick with the job, in response to criticism that he had quit too many jobs in his checkered career.

“I know that I’ve done a lot of different things in my life, but I’ll be mayor of this town for four years,” Jones told supporters Tuesday evening. “I’ll devote all of my waking life and focus to making Charleston a better place to live.”

Smith consoled supporters and told them not to be glum. “Don’t look sad. Put a smile on your face,” he told them.

He urged his supporters to help Jones because “he needs all the support we can give him.”

He also thanked supporters and his legion of volunteers. “The volunteers have been fantastic. You’ve all worked very, very hard. It’s been a good experience. I’d do it again and do it the same way.”

Jones received 7,500 votes to Smith’s 5,470. The 12,970 votes cast — a 37 percent turnout — represented an increase over 1999’s general election total of 11,296.

The Republican predicted Monday that he would receive between 6,500 and 7,000 votes.

Outgoing Democratic Mayor Jay Goldman, who threw his support behind Jones, was there to celebrate with Jones’ supporters. “We’ve got a real mayor and not an e-mayor,” Goldman said, in a reference to Smith’s use of e-mail to communicate with reporters.

Smith had demolished Goldman, 62 percent to 38 percent, in March’s Democratic primary. One poll Smith commissioned shortly after the primary showed him with a lead of 18 percentage points over Jones.

Jones began chipping away at that perceived lead about a month ago, with a broad array of television spots. They highlighted everything from garbage collection and recycling to economic development.

The 52-year-old Republican used $100,000 of his own personal fortune to fund most of the campaign. His family made its mark in coal and other industries.

Jones outspent Smith $101,711 to $32,260 in the critical period between April 5 and May 9, latest spending reports show. Smith’s campaign gradually ran out of money, after spending $72,000 to defeat Goldman.

Jones, a former Kanawha County sheriff, House of Delegates member, restaurateur and radio talk show host, waged a controlled, media-savvy campaign.

His camp sometimes became testy at suggestions that it didn’t have the volunteer base that Smith’s effort did. Jones leaned heavily on television and mailings to get his message across, but volunteers were part of the equation, as Russell Ray would attest.

A city refuse department employee, Ray worked with Jones last summer when the mayor-to-be put in long hours picking up yard waste. Jones was the assistant city refuse chief at the time.

Ray worked the West Side Hill and the East End for Jones, passing out literature.

“He’s going to be a people’s mayor,” said Ray, who said he was one of about 20 black volunteers working for Jones, half from the refuse department.

Of Smith, Ray said, “You can’t talk about basketball all the time and the memories of the ’50s. You can’t win the mayorship like that.”

Jones, who lives in a posh house on Loudon Heights Road, has talked about a “disconnect” facing the city, between wealthier residents in Kanawha City and South Hills and their working-class counterparts on the other side of the Kanawha.

“I know that when you live up where I do, we don’t concern ourselves with some of the same things as other parts of the city,” Jones said. “Some people have gunshots ringing in their neighborhoods. These are the people we’re trying to keep safe. And we’re going to get the yard waste picked up if I have to do it myself.”

Smith and Jones waged what turned out to be a fairly contentious campaign, particularly after an April 6 debate at Stonewall Jackson Middle School. Jones alleged that Smith supporters “shouted him down” toward the end of that debate.

“I made up my mind after Stonewall,” Jones said. “We started feeling it after that.”

Smith backers said the incident was brief and prompted by Jones’ inaccurate attack. Jones put $80,000 of his own money into the campaign the day after and used it well on television. He acknowledged Tuesday that the ads played a large part in the win.

Accusations of sign stealing followed the Stonewall fiasco.

Jones accused Smith supporters of swiping hundreds of his signs. Smith countered that Jones orchestrated the whole event himself, in effect removing his own signs. He predicted that Jones would next accuse his campaign of breaking into Jones’ headquarters, though that never materialized.

As the campaign wore on, Jones and his campaign manager, Larry LaCorte, became more aggressive. A poll paid for by Jones drew Smith’s ire, because it included negative statements about the Democrat.

Smith termed the survey a “push poll,” one whose chief intent is to influence voters without collecting substantial data. Jones said the voter preference question came at the beginning of the survey, before the negative statements were read.

At any rate, it showed Jones with a lead of 9 percentage points, but with 22 percent undecided. Last week, a poll Smith commissioned, done by one of his own contributors, showed the two in a dead heat. That poll showed 25 percent of voters remained undecided.

Of the past six mayors, Jones becomes the fourth Republican to win the office in a heavily Democratic city. One, Chuck Gardner, was chosen by City Council in 1987 to fill the unexpired term of the late Mike Roark, who resigned after pleading guilty to cocaine use.

Son Zak and sister Laura Patterson accompanied Jones at the victory podium Tuesday. Jones has always been single.

“I don’t want to hear anybody say I’m not a family man,” Jones said.

TOPICS: West Virginia; Campaign News; Issues; Parties; Polls; State and Local
KEYWORDS: 2003; charleston; chrissmith; dannyjones; mayoralelection; westvirginia
A link to the voting totals of this race and other races held in Charleston, West Virginia.

Charleston, West Virginia

1 posted on 05/20/2003 11:11:04 PM PDT by LdSentinal
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