Lissa Lucas was removed from the West Virginia House of Delegates during a accessible audition on Feb. 9, afterwards she began advertisement accumulated donations accustomed by associates of the legislature. (West Virginia Legislature)
Video of a abstruse candidate for a statehouse bench in West Virginia went viral over the weekend afterwards she was forcibly removed from a hearing for reciting a account of oil-and-gas donations to lawmakers’ campaigns. Here is her story.
You don’t run for the statehouse in rural West Virginia because you’re in it for the fame. Lissa Lucas hadn’t aloft abundant money either, she said, added than a year into the Democrat’s first campaign for accessible office.
By February, Lucas wasn’t even sure whether she had a attempt at the District 7 seat, 100 afar alfresco the capital. Her abiding advance ambition was to accession $1,500 for some backyard signs, in hopes that the voters would remember her name come November. (It’s Lissa, like Melissa, by the way. Not Lisa.)
Lucas is a biographer by trade. She said her best-known assignment afore this ages was probably “My Pet Chicken Handbook,” which is absolutely what it sounds like.
She jumped into politics, she said, because when her grandfathering larboard her a farmhouse outside Cairo (population 263) some years back, the acreage came with a gas able-bodied on it. Not that Lucas minds the well, but she said accompaniment politicians accept been demography added and added money from energy companies, which since at atomic 2015 have been blame for bills that give their industry added rights over landowners in a accompaniment that is already amid the nation’s top natural gas producers.
“I feel like no one’s alert to us in rural areas,” Lucas told The Washington Post. “Those pipelines will go through your acreage whether you’re a Republican or Democrat or libertarian. These companies accept been blame bills that eat abroad at acreage rights.”
As it happened, the West Virginia House Judiciary Board was voting Friday on such a bill — one that would let companies assignment on some people’s acreage afterwards their consent, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
So she drove 100-odd afar to Charleston aftermost anniversary with a two-minute accent in hand, almost none of which she would get to read.
Lucas arrived at the accompaniment Capitol afore aurora on Friday — too early; she said she hadn’t been abiding of the starting time.
She stood about and chatted with the aegis guards, she said. She looked over her speech, which was mostly a printout listing board Republicans and the donations they had taken from donors affiliated to the oil-and-gas industry.
“I was acquisitive to accomplish them apprehend how it looks,” she said. “It’s not aloof the affair of impropriety. It’s the affair of the appearance of barbarism that’s breaking our government.”
By the time the audition started, the Gazette-Mail wrote, 30 bodies had active up to speak, including natural gas lobbyists.
The aboriginal apostle was the accompaniment secretary of commerce, who “assured the allowance the bill would actualize added jobs,” the cardboard wrote.
Lucas went second.
“Lisa Lucas,” announced the board chairman.
“It’s Lissa,” Lucas said.
She adapted her glasses and looked at her notes. “And aboriginal I’d aloof like to say that, um.”
Lucas had anticipation she’d accept two account to allege but had since been told that the absolute was alone a minute and 45 seconds. Her addendum didn’t attending acceptable to fit in that limit, and, anyway, she was a bit fired up about the secretary of commerce’s speech.
“No jobs will be created by this,” Lucas ad-libbed. “I’d additionally like to point out that the bodies who are activity to be speaking in favor of this bill are activity to be paid by the industry. For example, and, I accept to accumulate this abbreviate …”
She named Del. Charlotte Lane (R). “About $10,000 from gas and oil interests,” Lucas said, and listed several companies from her list. “I could go on.”
She flipped a folio and named the board chairman, Del. John Shott (R).
“First Energy $2,000,” she said. “Appalachian Power $2,000. Steptoe & Johnson — that’s a gas-and-oil law close — $2,000. Consol Energy $1,000. EQT $1,000. And I could go on.
“Now let’s allocution about Jason Harshbarger —”
In her speech, she had written out a abnegation acquainted he was her Republican adversary in District 7, but the administrator disconnected her.
“Ms. Lucas,” Shott said. “We ask no claimed comments be made.”
“These are not claimed comments.”
“It is a claimed comment, and I’m going to alarm you out of adjustment if you’re talking about individuals on the committee.”
Lucas looked at the chairman. She attending at her notes. She advised and kept talking.
“About 40 percent of his money comes . . . Aboriginal . . . Energy.”
A red ablaze ball flashed on the lectern in advanced of her. Her microphone went dead, and two guards approached.
“I appetite to finish,” Lucas said.
“You’re not activity to finish.”
One bouncer took her appropriate arm. Another took her left.
“Drag me off then,” Lucas said. As they absolved her out of the room, she shouted the adage of West Virginia — “Montani semper liberi!” Mountaineers are consistently free.
Most of the bodies who batten afterwards Lucas accurate the bill, WVNews reported.
Lucas waited in the antechamber all morning, communicable snippets of the action when addition opened the door. She apologized to the guard, she said. “I aloof anticipation I broke their morning.”
Maybe she should not accept fabricated a scene, she thought. “I was aloof affectionate of mad. I anticipation it was a antic agee of the rules, to advance this was a claimed attack.”
Rules were rules, Shott told The Post, and Lucas had accepted she was breaking them. “The purpose of the audition was not campaign finance,” he said. “I anticipate the accomplished affair was a setup, to be honest with you.”
He was apropos to what happened next.
The board anesthetized the bill 16 to 9 on a party-line vote in the aboriginal afternoon, with a few amendments in favor of landowners.
Afterward, Lucas said, a friend brought her covering out of the chambers. They got a backward breakfast, and she collection aback to Cairo.
The Internet is apathetic out in rural West Virginia, Lucas said, so it was a altercation to put the video of her speech up on her campaign’s Facebook page. But why not, she figured. Could not hurt.
“You had every right.”
Comment afterwards comment, tens of bags of views. By Monday, Lucas was hasty from one account to the abutting — from Newsweek to The Post, and her donations approached $20,000 and counting.
“I guess I don’t accept to anguish about the backyard sign,” she said.
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