[Videolib] Mountain Party picks filmmaker to run for Governor

Steve Fesenmaier (fesenms@wvlc.lib.wv.us)
Mon, 03 May 2004 16:36:33 -0400

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May 03, 2004
Mountain Party picks filmmaker

By Scott Finn
Staff Writer

The first gubernatorial candidate to make it onto the ballot this fall
hasn’t run a single campaign commercial. He’s not a Democrat or a
Republican. And he believes the film industry can lead the state to
economic prosperity.

Charleston filmmaker Jesse Johnson won the nomination at the Mountain
Party’s convention in Jacksons Mill Saturday, beating poet Bob Henry
Baber of Richwood.

Party members also decided not to give consumer advocate Ralph Nader
their nomination for president, meaning Nader will have to gather more
than 12,000 signatures to get on the state’s ballot.

Johnson said he will offer a real alternative to the Democratic and
Republican candidates, which he said were making “the same old promises”
as every other election.

“This is politics unusual, not politics as usual,” he said. “I have a
serious plan for how to develop a whole new economy in West Virginia.
I’m not seeing real plans from other candidates,” he said.

West Virginia should be hosting movies like “Cold Mountain,” he said.
Even movies about West Virginia, like “October Sky,” are filmed out of

One film crew can create 100 local jobs in a month, he said. With tax
incentives and a rerouting of some tourism dollars, the state could
compete with its neighbors, he said.

“Each state surrounding us is blowing our doors off, making hundreds of
millions from film productions,” he said.

Filmmaking is just one of his issues, he said. He is in favor of
abortion rights, while most gubernatorial candidates are not.

He wants corporations, including mining and timber companies, to “pay
their fair share of taxes.” He thinks the insurance industry needs to be
reformed, not the state’s legal system.

And his party is against mountaintop removal, although Johnson strikes a
more conciliatory tone on that issue than the Mountain Party’s 2000
gubernatorial candidate, Charleston author Denise Giardina.

“We need to work with coal and be a friend of coal if we want to end
mountaintop removal,” he said, promising to help coal companies find an
“exit strategy” for the mining practice instead of trying to stop it

Johnson is a native of Charleston and owns West Virginia Film Investment
LLC. He said he was a Republican for more than 20 years, worked for the
Pritt campaign in 1996, and dislikes the policies of the Bush

He is a relatively new convert to the Mountain Party, only switching his
registration in early March, although he said he was active in the
Mountain Party before that.

He never ran for public office before, but that doesn’t discourage him.
“I don’t know of any governor’s school. I’m as qualified as anyone
else,” he said.

As for Nader, some delegates argued at Saturday’s convention that
Nader’s 2000 candidacy was responsible for Bush’s election over Democrat
Al Gore and said they did not wish to see a repeat of that situation.

“The truth is, the Bush people would like nothing better than for us to
nominate Nader,’’ said Don Alexander of Charleston.

Also Saturday, Julian Martin of Charleston, a retired teacher, was
nominated to run against Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., for the
state’s 2nd Congressional District seat.

Norman Walcott of Pocahontas County and John Williams of Charleston were
nominated to run for the state Senate in their respective districts.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. To contact staff writer
Scott Finn, use e-mail or call 357-4323.

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