It looked like so much symbolism when U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito and her fellow Republican officeholders gathered together at the state Capitol earlier this week.
In the moment, maybe we tend to brush off symbolism: not news.
But given time to reflect – like, 20 years to reflect – symbolism carries significance.
Back in 1996, when Capito was first elected to a state House of Delegates seat, one word would have described the inkling that she would one day stand and promote a unified agenda with three Republican congressmen, a majority GOP for the state Board of Public Works and Republican majorities in both houses of the state Legislature.
In 1996 it was news simply that she was running. A headline in my old newspaper, The Charleston Daily Mail, announced, “Capito has $4,375 in funding.”
Make her spend it all.
One of my colleagues, Statehouse reporter Jack Deutsch, wrote a front page story that took note of the very first way most West Virginians would identify with Capito: her father, former Governor Arch Moore.
Jack began his story with the torch being passed from father to daughter. Capito, then a political rookie, said she had been interested in politics but had needed time to raise three children.
“It’s something I thought about for several years,” she said. “I think I’d be good at it.”
She leaped into a West Virginia political landscape dominated by Democrats: Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller in the U.S. Senate, Democrats in all of West Virginia’s congressional seats and Democratic majorities in both houses of the state Legislature.
I was the young reporter who covered her Election Night victory for the Daily Mail in 1996.
Capito told me her Election Night began with her locking her keys in her car. Her son brought her an extra set of keys. “From then on, I was calm,” she said.
Capito eked out a seventh place finish in what was then a 7-member District 30.
Since then, she hasn’t had to eke out anything. She just keeps winning.
This Monday, Capito was surrounded by other Republican leaders. When she stops to reflect, she must be as amazed as anyone by West Virginia’s political transformation.
What she actually said, though, is that it’s time to get busy.
“What’s the message?” she asked and then answered: “It’s time for us to govern.”