CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sheirl L. Fletcher, who served two terms as a Republican member of the in the House of Delegates from Monongalia County from 1998 to 2002, is running against Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in Tuesday's Democratic primary.
"The most important thing to me is that we get the word out about the Democratic primary election," Fletcher, 54, said during a telephone interview on Friday.
"It is important that Democrats know they have an alternative to Joe Manchin. People often say, 'I wish I had someone other than Joe to vote for.' They don't know there is an alternative candidate.
"I am moderate Democrat. I have good understanding of both labor and business, particularly when it comes to the coal industry and energy issues.
"I am an environmental engineer and have worked with the energy sector in the coal industry for the past 30 years. I have always promoted the industry while, at the same time, worked to see that the industry complies with environmental law and regulations," Fletcher said.
A graduate of West Virginia University with a major in geology, she owns Fletcher Environmental Services today. Fletcher has spent more than 30 years working for coal companies, including 23 years with Consolidation Coal's environmental department.
"We can mine coal. We should mine coal. We will mine coal, but we will do it in a way that is protective of the environment.
"Because of my experience in the environmental area, I developed and maintain a good working relationship with the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and other federal and state regulatory agencies.
"We have been unable to find common ground between the [Obama] administration and the coal industry. Our state has suffered as a result. For that reason also, I would hope West Virginians will let me serve as a senator in Washington."
Fletcher raised two children as a single mother, both of whom attended WVU.
"I know what it takes to raise a family on a modest income. I know how difficult it is for parents to afford to send their kids to college.
"My son is a veteran of the Marine Corps, who received a Purple Heart for injuries during service in Iraq. Veterans need health care, education and employment."
"We entered into this war in Iraq because Americans were told about these weapons of mass destruction that never appeared," she said. Her son was wounded when an improvised explosive device, or IED, exploded.
Fletcher ran for U.S. Senate in two previous elections, after changing her registration to the Democratic Party in 2003.
She ran against incumbent Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va, in the May 2008 Democratic primary. Rockefeller won 77 percent of the vote, while Fletcher received 14 percent and Billy Hendricks, eight percent.
On Friday, Fletcher said, "I actually have a good relationship with Jay Rockefeller. We are friends. If I am elected to be the junior senator, we would make a good dynamic team for West Virginia."
In 2010, Fletcher ran against Manchin in a special election for the Senate seat held by the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd. Manchin won 73 percent of the votes in the August 28 Democratic primary. Hechler won 17 percent, while Fletcher received 10 percent.
"I did a lot of traveling during that campaign to county courthouses and Democratic Party functions. I feel like I made a connection with people, both Republicans and Democrats."
Her current primary campaign, Fletcher said, has included meet-and-greet events, but also relied on technology and social networking.
"If people can have a successful revolution overthrowing a barbaric regime in the Middle East, we can win this election in West Virginia," she said.
Before being elected to the House of Delegates, Fletcher served on the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council, under both Gov. Cecil Underwood and Gov. Bob Wise, because of her experience as an engineer and environmental specialist.
"In recent years, I have been involved with the West Virginia Federation of Democratic Women and have supported Democratic causes and Democratic candidates" Fletcher said.
West Virginians for Life, a state affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee, endorsed Fletcher in Tuesday's primary.
Wanda Franz, president of the West Virginians for Life PAC, said her organization "will not endorse Sen. Joe Manchin for his re-election campaign."
Many of Fletcher's stances are outlined on her website, www.fletcherforussenate.com.
"I believe health care is a right for everyone and not a privilege for only those who can afford it. The Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) is a good start," Fletcher states on her website. "I will work in a bi-partisan manner to improve the act -- to expand access to health care while reducing overall health care costs."
The National Rifle Association gave Fletcher "A" rating and also endorsed her. Fletcher said she "has a 100 percent voting record on Second Amendment Rights issues."
Her website also reprinted a letter Fletcher sent to all country chairmen in the state Democratic Party.
In that letter, she criticized Manchin for his ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) -- "an anti-labor, anti-Democratic right-wing organization."
Fletcher said, "Democrats in our state and in Washington believe Joe Manchin will eventually change parties and become a Republican. I know he has denied that. But if Joe is elected to the Senate, and should Republicans gain control of the Senate, it would be very difficult for him not to be persuaded to change parties."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.