By Bil Lepp/Gazette Mail

Our state leaders do such a bad job that they are threatening their own jobs — not through elections, but through downsizing. We are bleeding population so fast that West Virginia will likely lose one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2020 Census.

To put it simply: Management sucks and nobody wants to work here. West Virginia politicians lament the fact we are losing population, but the fact we are losing population is a direct reflection on the politicians we have.

Some folks blame ordinary citizens for deserting the state, but if the ship sinks, you blame the captain, not the crew. If our leaders are so bad at their jobs that droves of folks are heading out, then those leaders deserve to lose their seats. If some of our state and congressional representatives spent more time caring about individual West Virginians, those citizens wouldn’t leave.

Losing a seat would take West Virginia from three seats in the House to two. But hey, we’d still have more seats than Wyoming.

Some people worry about losing a seat in the House, but would it be that awful, really? I often feel like our congressional delegation uses us more as bait to get funding to promote their own agendas, rather than truly representing us. We are just bait, chum.

If you are treading water and three sharks are circling you, but two of those sharks eat the third, then you only have two sharks circling you. That’s better, right?

Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., gets a stunning 88.78% of his campaign contributions from out-of-state donors ( That means there is almost a 90% chance he simply does not care what you think. He is busy circling out-of-state investors to save his, uh, seat.

Mooney, I suppose, is barely thinking about West Virginians at all. When he does remember West Virginians, I believe he is only thinking of those who contribute to his war chest. Less than 10% of Mooney’s donations come from within the district he serves. So, there is only a 10% chance Mooney cares about you. If you want to benefit from representation by Alex Mooney, it actually makes sense to leave the state.

If we lose one seat in the House, and that seat happens to be Mooney’s, we haven’t lost much. Plummeting population is a direct reflection of political policy. If our politicians don’t care about the people of West Virginia, why not leave?

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., gets about 85% of his money from out of state. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., takes in 81% from out-of-state interests.

These lawmakers are far more concerned about making the businesses that fund them happy than they are about ensuring your well-being.

Full disclosure: I make more than 50% of my income out of state, but I bring my money back to West Virginia, spend it locally, donate locally, pay state taxes and generally help prop up the pepperoni roll industry. The money I earn outside West Virginia ultimately benefits West Virginia, whereas the out-of-state money our leaders take in benefits only the outside donors.

At least two candidates running for office this year in West Virginia have refused to take money from big corporations. Cathy Kunkel is running for the House of Representatives against Alex Mooney. Stephen Smith is running for the Democratic nomination for governor.

These candidates, by refusing to take big-business donations, must get out among the people of our state. To get funds from individual West Virginians, these candidates are making an effort to meet and personally impress the citizens they wish to represent.

Stephen Smith has collected 485 individual donations from West Virginia educators, according to an independent analysis. Republican Gov. Jim Justice and the other major candidates running for governor in either party have a combined eight donations from public educators. Smith has the trust of our educators while Gov. Justice, a full-grown adult, is calling high-school students names.

Smith’s campaign for governor has more than doubled the previous record for small-dollar donations in a West Virginia gubernatorial race.

Cathy Kunkel is knocking on doors and meeting the people of the 2nd District while Alex Mooney sits at his desk phoning and flattering folks who live elsewhere. Kunkel is getting to know your neighbors in Scott Depot, while Mooney is trying to impress the president of Home Depot.

We can make our state better by voting for politicians who look inward, rather than outward, for support. Politicians working to placate out-of-state businesses and lobbyists are driving folks away from West Virginia.

Our elected politicians are threatening their own jobs by driving the population of West Virginia down. If they are too simple to protect their own jobs, how can you depend on them to protect yours?

Bil Lepp, of South Charleston, is a professional storyteller and Gazette-Mail contributing columnist