Meet Stephen Smith - Stephen on his porch swing, on phone

Why I’m Running

Why I’m Running

A letter from Stephen Smith

Meet Stephen

You can feel it. This is a moment. Every 50 years or so, the nation turns to West Virginia for leadership. The Civil War, the Mine Wars, the Teachers’ Strike–it is in our blood to fight for our people, no matter their race, their accent, or who their father was.

My name is Stephen Smith and I’m running for Governor, because I want my 8 year-old son to know whose side I was on.

We stand on the side of working people, not on their necks.

Stephen Smith as a child with father and siblings.
Stephen Smith as a child with parents and sibling.

West Virginians may have the least, but we give the most. In West Virginia, we always hear that we’re at the bottom of every list. We’re not: We are near the top for charitable giving, for military service, for volunteer service. We’re #1 in the amount of time we spend with our neighbors.

That’s the kind of family I grew up in – my dad helped start the WV Coalition for the Homeless and the Public Defender Services. My mom made our house the kind of place that always had extra people in it –foster kids, neighbors, family members who were between jobs.

I took the values I learned at home to Harvard and raised hell for working families. For four years, students and workers fought together, and we won a living wage for the janitors, cooks, and security guards. Since then, I’ve spent my career shoulder to shoulder with people who are fighting for their dignity. Eight years ago, my wife Sara and I chose to move home to West Virginia, because we wanted to raise our family in a place that cares more about who you serve than what you own.

The West Virginia organization I led for six years helped pass more than two dozen pieces of legislation, using old fashioned people power: health insurance for 182,000, a raise in the minimum wage, 5.2 million more school breakfasts annually. Meanwhile we lifted-up more than 300 community projects. We helped build gardens, after-school programs, and small businesses. All this happened not because of me, or because we had a lot of money, but because we knew that no one is more capable or more creative than the people who are closest to a problem.

The idea of this campaign is simple: what if the values of generosity and service that guided our neighborhoods also governed our statehouse? What if our state’s four billion dollar budget were accountable to working families, instead of Wall Street interests?

I’m running because the only way we get that kind of government is if we take it. No outside company or billionaire politician will save us. It is time to bet on our own people – our own kids, our own workers, and small businesses.

We need a thousand leaders, not one. We need a movement. That means we need you.


Our campaign wants your vote, but we’re also going to need your experience, your energy, your ideas. Because nobody knows this state like you do. Nobody knows its pain and how to heal it better than you. It’s time to turn that pain into power, like the generations before us did.

Never in American history has one politician brought the kind of change our state desperately needs. Only movements do that. I hope you’ll join us. West Virginia can’t wait.

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Join the Movement

We have hundreds of volunteers in every corner of the state, and a growing slate of candidates who will need our help in 2022. It will take 1,000 leaders not 1 to win a West Virginia that works for all of us.