Testing has opened up for the public in four communities this past weekend in coordination with West Virginia’s minority health advisory group, but black leaders in the Eastern Panhandle are questioning their representation on the team.
George Rutherford, president of the Jefferson County branch of the NAACP, said the Eastern Panhandle’s representative on the advisory group, Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, is not the ideal person to be relaying their concerns to the state.
“Senator Rucker, I don’t have nothing against her, but she has no relationship at all with the black community. None at all,” said Rutherford, who has headed the Jefferson NAACP since 1974.
After the advisory group met Friday morning, Rucker said by phone that her responsibilities as a legislator — responding to constituent concerns and lobbying to bring resources to her district — do not change based on a person’s skin color.
“I believe that’s an absolute partisan attack,” she said. “I work with everyone in my community and in my district, and have a lot of African Americans that I have as friends and who reach out to me for help, and of course I help them just like I help everybody.”
The Rev. Ernest Lyles, of Shepherdstown, reiterated Rutherford’s concern that Rucker is not the person for the job.
“When it comes to the African American community, Senator Rucker is invisible. And now, a task force has been appointed to address the issue of COVID-19 in the African American community, and someone who is disconnected from the African American community is appointed to serve on that task force,” Lyles said by phone.
“I had absolutely nothing to do with being appointed or being selected,” Rucker said, “but this group was supposed to be to help people, and I don’t necessarily think you have to be an African American in order to help African Americans.”
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