Charlotte Jean Pritt, the first woman to seek to become governor of West Virginia as the candidate of a major political party, was born January 2, 1949, at Charleston’s St. Francis Hospital. She was raised at Buzzard Rock, near Sissonville on the outskirts of the capital city. She graduated from Sissonville High School and received a B.A. and M.A. from Marshall University. She was a teacher in her early years.
In the 1980s, the Kanawha County Democrat was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates, serving from 1985 to 1988. In 1988, she campaigned for state Senate and won. She remained in the Senate from 1989 to 1992.
Pritt left the Senate in 1992, saying she had been drafted to run for governor. She was defeated in the Democratic primary after a bitterly fought battle with Gaston Caperton, the incumbent governor. She went on to oppose Caperton as an independent candidate in the general election in November. Scars of that campaign were to follow her four years later, when she again sought the governor’s seat. This time she overwhelmed her primary opposition and faced Republican Cecil Underwood in the November 1996 general election.
She lost to Underwood by a vote of 324,518 to 287,870. She suffered from a divided party. Some Democrats, still remembering her independent race against the party incumbent in 1992, bolted to Underwood, who also benefited by the support of the coal industry and others alarmed by Pritt’s liberal, pro-labor politics.
In 2000, Pritt ran for secretary of state, losing by a substantial margin in the Democratic primary to Joe Manchin, whom she had defeated in the 1996 gubernatorial primary. Pritt resumed her academic pursuits after the 2000 campaign, teaching seminars and pursuing a degree in nutrition. She became the owner of an educational and wellness consulting firm.
In 2012, Pritt was elected chairwoman of the Mountain Party, the West Virginia affiliate of the national Green Party.
This Article was written by Kay Michael
Last Revised on July 24, 2012