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W.Va. GOP hosts Arkansas' Huckabee

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The country would be better off if other states had voted like West Virginia did in 2008, Mike Huckabee said Friday night.

The former Arkansas governor spoke to a packed room of about 500 people who attended the state Republican Party's "Freedom Dinner," at the Charleston Marriott.

"We wouldn't be in the mess we are now," Huckabee said, noting that he won West Virginia in the 2008 Republican presidential primary election.

"West Virginia is one of the most picturesque, beautiful states -- it has magnificent natural beauty," he said, adding that Arkansas also is known for its mountains.

And also like Arkansas, Huckabee said, West Virginia has a "Democratic machine."

People here are starting to realize, though, that Democrats have had their "boots on the neck of West Virginia's economy" and have held the state back, he said.

"The only way to change is to understand God put coal" and other natural resources in West Virginia "to allow the state to prosper," he said.

Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas started off Friday night's event by poking fun at Mingo County officials -- all Democrats -- who recently have been charged by federal prosecutors.

"It's the 16th night in a row they didn't have an indictment," Lucas said, drawing laughter from the crowd. No one in attendance was "endorsed by Team Mingo," he added, referencing the Democratic political action committee that has had several of its members accused of federal crimes.

"I started feeling so at home," Huckabee said after hearing about the alleged corruption.

Huckabee was sworn in as Arkansas' governor in July 1996, after Democrat Jim Tucker stepped down following a fraud conviction.

Huckabee, a former minister, spoke about his respect for a strong work ethic and pointed to West Virginia's coal miners.

He laughed while recalling a "lecture" he once received from Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., on poverty.

"I've lived it," he recalled thinking, noting he was the first man in his family to graduate from high school and attend college.

Huckabee, who has a weekend show on Fox News Channel, also touched on his pro-life stance and the need for fewer taxes, which drew more applause from those in attendance.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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