I wrote a fair number of stories for the Virginia Mercury over the summer and fall that involved mud. Whether created by the cutting of a right-of-way swath for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, or flung by political opponents in Virginia’s 2019 elections, mud seems to be a recurring theme.
Mud—and erosion and sediment control—sits at the center of the pipeline fights. It factored into the various legal and regulatory blockades to the pipeline that largely remain in place. It was part of the landscape when I looked across from the wooded Yellow Finch tree-sit to a cleared part of the right of way in late July. And it covered my boots after a visit to a Franklin County farm that’s been abandoned because the pipeline cuts through it.
I saw a different kind of mud when I covered a rough southwestern Virginia Republican primary. That primary signaled a new phase in Virginia’s 2019 legislative elections, in which every seat in the 140-member General Assembly is up for grabs, with redistricting power on the line. I covered the elections from a GOP mass meeting in Scott County, to a “Trump Republican for Commissioner of Revenue” in Washington County, to the numerous Democrats running in tough rural districts across the commonwealth.
As the Mercury’s southwest Virginia correspondent, I also covered the following stories:
- Remote Area Medical held its 20th and final free health clinic at the Wise County Fairgrounds as Virginia’s Medicaid expansion took hold. RAM will continue to run clinics in Appalachia but is focusing on other communities, such as Lee County.
- InvestSWVA launched as a new economic development initiative for southwestern Virginia. A few weeks later, it was at the table when Amazon executives visited the town of St. Paul with Gov. Ralph Northam.
- Finally, I looked at the backlash to elk reintroduction from farmers and others in southwestern Virginia.