West Virginia Primary Announcement, February 4, 1960

I shall run in the West Virginia Presidential Primary.

Frankly, I did not originally intend to do so. This primary is held on May 10 - and I have already committed myself to run in the Nebraska Primary on that day, inasmuch as that primary has been historically significant in the Midwest and in the nation. I am also running in the Maryland Primary in this same area, which - unlike the West Virginia outcome - is binding on its delegates. I am flying from here to Indiana to announce my entry in to that primary - which means that I will have entered every Presidential Primary in the country which binds its delegates for one or more ballots, where no legitimate favorite son candidate is running - and most of the non-binding primaries as well. No other Presidential aspirant has been willing to do this.

Consequently, many friends in West Virginia had advised me to concentrate here on the delegates rather than the primary. But Senator Humphrey has challenged me to enter the primary here - and I accept his challenge, just as I accepted it in Wisconsin. I regret that he has not seen fit to accept my invitation in any of the other states I have mentioned.

This means West Virginia will have its first significant Democratic Primary in many years. For even though the results are not by law binding on the delegates, they will be chosen at the same time by the same electorate voting in the Preferential Primary. And in a state where the will of the voter has always been regarded as paramount - providing, for example, as late as the Constitution of 1872, for popular instructions to legislators - the Democratic delegates elected on May 10th will, I am certain, weigh very heavily the expressed preferences of the people who elected them.

No candidate at the July Convention - who refused to enter this primary in May because he felt he could not win the public's confidence and support - can be expected to win that confidence and support in the November elections. 1960 will "break the tie" in a century of equally divided Presidential elections in this state. And if that tie is to be broken by the Democratic nominee, it should be one willing to enter this contest now that it has been joined.

Primaries, moreover, require the candidate to become familiar with a state, its problems and its issues. And West Virginia in particular needs that kind of attention after eight years of neglect under the present administration. Any candid who wants this state's support at the Convention should be willing to take to the voters of West Virginia now his views on the major issues confronting this state and nation:

--whether we can achieve a world of peace and freedom in place of the fantastically dangerous and expensive arms race in which we are now falling behind,

--whether the unemployed workers and the labor surplus areas of this state, my own state of Massachusetts and other states can obtain some prompt and positive action to help them and their families get back on their feet,

--whether our nation's growing food surpluses can be more effectively used to feed our own hungry here at home, those on unemployment or public assistance, in schools or institutions, instead of wasting in warehouses at the taxpayers' expense,

--whether the farmers of West Virginia, neglected by Secretary Benson, can obtain some relief from the agonizing squeeze of ever higher costs and ever lower income,

--whether a prize asset of this nation, the coal industry and its work force, can be preserved and restored to their vitality, through policies of national economic growth and better coal research,

--whether this nation can establish an economic climate and conditions which will foster the development of new industries in states such as West Virginia and protect old, established industries against disintegration and decay,

--whether older and retired workers in West Virginia and other states can obtain decent Social Security benefits, decent medical care and a decent, dignified way of life,

--whether the children of West Virginia and the nation can obtain safe, decent, adequate public school facilities with competent well-paid teachers.

With these and other issues, I intend to undertake in West Virginia a campaign for the Presidency of the United States.

Source: Papers of John F. Kennedy. Pre-Presidential Papers. Senate Files, Box 906, "West Virginia primary announcement, 4 February 1960." John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.