Teacher Ousts West Virginia State Senate Leader In GOP Primary

Elementary school teacher Amy Nichole Grady defeated West Virginia state Senate President Mitch Carmichael in a Republican primary Tuesday night, another victory for educators who have scored election wins nationwide in the wake of mass teacher strikes and protests that have broken out over the last two years.

Grady was inspired to run for office by the West Virginia teacher strike that lasted for nearly two weeks in 2018, when Carmichael, who as Senate president also serves as the state’s lieutenant governor, feuded with educators over pay raises.

She unsuccessfully sought a Senate seat as an independent in 2018, according to 100 Days in Appalachia. But on Tuesday, Grady beat Carmichael by roughly 700 votes.

Carmichael congratulated Grady in a tweet late Tuesday night, and pledged to support her in the general election, where she will face Bruce Ashworth, a progressive. Grady, who describes herself on Facebook as “a Pro-life, Pro-2nd Amendment conservative teacher who is fed up with self-serving elected officials,” is expected to win.

West Virginia teachers staged a rare strike in 2018, seeking pay increases for educators and state employees, as well as a better retiree health plan, which teachers said was vital to keeping educators working in the state. They went on strike again in 2019 to protest legislation to bring charter schools to West Virginia.

Carmichael, who was first elected in 2012 and has served as the Senate leader since 2016, became a prime target for teachers to defeat, especially after he supported the charter school bill. He also drew outrage from teachers after he accused the American Federation of Teachers of pushing a “socialist agenda.”

The 2018 strike sparked a wave of teacher activism across the country, as teachers in Kentucky, Arizona and other states staged mass protests over proposed changes to pension and retirement plans, expressing frustration over decades of cuts to public education budgets.  

The protests inspired many teachers and public school employees to run for office themselves, and Grady’s win is the latest example of educators flexing their muscle as candidates. 

In 2018, a teacher ousted Kentucky’s House majority leader in a GOP primary election. Last year, teacher organizing helped bring down Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican whose attempts to overhaul the state’s public pension system, cut education budgets, and bring charter schools to the state generated mass protests and school closures two years ago.  

Bevin lost the gubernatorial race to current Gov. Andy Beshear (D) in a close election fight last November.

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