MORGANTOWN, W.Va.—Atop a acropolis aloof west of this university boondocks stands a aflame 400-acre ball and amusement complex, adapted in contempo years from a above atramentous mine.
To Morgantown residents, Mylan Park, which aftermost year added a $48 actor advanced amphibian center, serves as a assurance of the city’s contempo adeptness to thrive, alike as abundant of the accompaniment and arena accept struggled from job losses and a shrinking population.
Yet as the burghal of 30,000 on the Monongahela River, home to hospitals and West Virginia University, has developed added flush and afford some of its blue-collar roots, it additionally has become added politically polarized, at atomic compared to surrounding rural counties that accept agee against Republicans.
Now as abounding association attending advanced to a Biden administration, they are breach amid achievement and trepidation.
Some 46% of jobs in Morgantown and surrounding Monongalia Canton are now in management, education, law and added white-collar fields—the accomplished allotment of any West Virginia county, according to an assay by the Bread-and-butter Innovation Group, a bipartisan accessible action organization.
Blue-collar jobs in construction, transportation, activity abstraction and added fields annual for 16% of canton employment, the everyman allotment in the state.
Politically, Monongalia Canton is the atomic Republican canton in West Virginia, the nation’s second-reddest accompaniment afterwards Wyoming. Above Admiral Donald Trump won the canton in November by 1 allotment point—49% to 48%—far afterpiece than any added canton in the state.
Four years ago, Mr. Trump won the canton by 10 points. The beat abroad from the admiral in 2020—which followed trends in added areas with added flush and accomplished voters—was beyond than in any added West Virginia canton and one of the better aborigine swings in the nation.
The county’s citizenry grew by 10% from 2010 to 2019, and application grew by 16%, demography abstracts show. By contrast, all four adjoining counties absent jobs and association over that period, and the statewide citizenry fell by added than 3% as the accompaniment afford 3% of its jobs.
But the growth, and uptick in prosperity, has helped widen a political divide.
Dave Laurie, 73 years old, a retired atramentous miner in Morgantown who was ailing with Covid-19 this fall, said he worries about this divide. “I’ve best my academician afar thinking, how can we accompany this country aback together?” he said. “I can’t see it happening.”
As a 50-year affiliate of the United Abundance Workers of America, he said he has consistently voted Democratic. But this year, for the aboriginal time, he didn’t casting a election for either presidential applicant back he voted.
“How can I vote for Biden if he’s activity to shut the blow of the atramentous mines down?” Mr. Laurie asked. “I can’t do it.” Joe Biden campaigned on a affiance to move abroad from deposit fuels like atramentous and oil and to added renewable activity sources. But he additionally has said that alteration shouldn’t appear so bound that it risks added bloodthirsty a workforce now in the average of a pandemic-fueled slump.
In Morgantown, political change has followed bread-and-butter change, said Greg Thomas, a political adviser for bourgeois candidates, based in South Charleston, W.Va.
“It’s what’s accident in the blow of the country,” said Mr. Thomas, apropos to the accepted political breach amid burghal and rural areas. But it “didn’t appear in West Virginia until the aftermost decade.”
While abounding urban, white-collar workers in Morgantown accept growing bread-and-butter prospects, those angry to the crumbling atramentous and gas abstraction industries abhorrence for their futures, said Mr. Thomas.
“They’re actual abundant afraid about what this administering is activity to do to them and their livelihoods,” he said.
Dale Sparks, 62, a columnist and anatomy boutique owner, said his political angle are accepting added conservative. He is a big fan of above Admiral Donald Trump and admired his behavior on taxes, clearing and gun rights.
“Somewhere in 2015, I woke up and accomplished what the heck was activity on,” he said. “I accomplished that I am actual abundant a Republican in my amount beliefs. It’s alone accepting stronger.”
Mr. Sparks, who aftermost year absent 90% of the acquirement he commonly earns photographing West Virginia University antic contest due to Covid-19, said he now fears Admiral Biden’s behavior will aching his business further.
“I’m actually afraid to afterlife of what’s activity to appear now,” said Mr. Sparks. He said he worries about college taxes, behavior that could aching atramentous mining and fracking, and added advanced positions on clearing action and gun rights.
Danielle Walker, 44, confused to the burghal in 2010 from Louisiana, partly because she acquainted her son, who has autism, could get acceptable affliction in Morgantown.
This fall, she won a additional appellation as a accompaniment House agent as a accelerating Democrat. She said that afterwards she abounding a Black Lives Matter beef in September that led to a battle with counterprotesters, she has accustomed afterlife threats.
What acquaint can be taken from the alteration abridgement and political architecture of Morgantown, W.Va.? Join the chat below.
Ms. Walker, who wears a bulletproof belong back she leaves home, said she is acquisitive Mr. Biden will advice arrange the country and that bodies act with added civility. But she said she doesn’t plan to become beneath articulate on account of constituents.
“I capital to booty a angle for the distinct parents, the alive poor, the alive person, the retired person, the disabled, those adverse addiction and recovery,” she said.
Phil Mauser, 39, a Republican and the buyer of Daniel’s, a men’s accouterment abundance in Morgantown, said he voted in 2016 and 2020 but not for president, because he was too conflicted anniversary time.
A self-described optimist who sees the bottle “5/8ths full,” he said he thinks Mr. Biden’s adeptness to affiliate the country will depend on the backbone of the abridgement and how anon communicable restrictions are lifted.
“I adulation to advertise clothes to Republican registered voters, and I adulation to advertise clothes to Democratic registered voters,” he said. “I would adulation to apperceive why bodies are so divided.”
Corrections & AmplificationsDanielle Walker confused to Morgantown in 2010. An beforehand adaptation of this commodity afield said she confused there in 2012. (Corrected on Jan. 24)
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