Candidates present at the Parsons event.
The Tucker County Democratic Executive Committee sponsored two meet-the-candidate forums on Saturday afternoon. The first forum was held in the Tucker County Courthouse in Parsons. The second was held at the Thomas Education Center.
Twelve Democratic Primary candidates spoke about their goals to make life better for working people in West Virginia and Tucker County. Candidates had three minutes to introduce themselves and concisely explain their platform.
John Cooper of Canaan Valley, president of the Democratic Executive Committee moderated the Parsons event. Approximately 40 were in attendance. After each candidate spoke, questions were asked by Cooper.
Twelfth grade students of Alex Cork’s Tucker County High School civics class submitted the questions. Questions dealt with school violence, the need for economic opportunities, and how to deal with dilapidated buildings.
“In civic education, one of the most worthwhile things we can do is get students, many who are now voting citizens, engaged in the democratic process by teaching them it is more than just simply checking a box by a name,” Cork said. “It is our goal through projects like this to inspire a future of participating and educated voters.”
Elaine George moderated the Thomas event. The audience posed questions on gun control, broadband, abortion, and tourism for the candidates.
Incumbent United States Senator Joe Manchin and his challenger Paula Jean Swearengin each sent statements, since they were not able to attend.
Rodger Champ represented Manchin. Champ is also running for the 14th Senatorial District State Executive Committee. Champ served on the Hardy County Commission and Senator Manchin’s Veterans Advisory Committee.
Cory Chase represented Swearengin. Swearengin’s statement expressed a priority on job creation, cannabis legalization, and addressing the state’s opioid epidemic.
Of the three candidates vying to challenge incumbent United States Republican Congressman David McKinley, none have previously run for elected office.
Tom Payne of Keyser is a West Point graduate and veteran, both of which influence his decision-making. He billed himself as the “common sense candidate” and spoke of his skills in the war room, the boardroom, and the courtroom. His number one priority is improving broadband accessibility.
Morgantown resident Kendra Fershee is a West Virginia law professor. “I think we need more people like us running for office,” Fershee said. She emphasized collective freedoms, such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure, as a priority.
Ralph Baxter of Weirton is a lawyer and business owner in Wheeling, where he employs 350 people. He believes the United States Congress is broken. He sees job creation as a priority for the state.
Stephanie Zucker is running against incumbent Dave Sypolt for the District 14 West Virginia Senate seat. Zucker was critical of Sypolt’s record and relations with big corporations, specifically pharmaceutical companies. Her priorities include organized labor, broadband, and investing in public lands.
Cory Chase is challenging incumbent Buck Jennings for the District 53 West Virginia House of Delegates seat. A Tucker County native, Chase expressed his desire to heal our communities and lands by focusing on agricultural initiatives, universal healthcare, and treating addiction instead of punishing addicts.
Tucker County Commission candidates Freddy Davis, Diane Hinkle, and Alan Kidwell were present at both events.
Davis was open about his lack of political experience. He noted he would rely on the input of others to influence and guide his political decision-making. He wants to create a vocational school for the county and focus on recreational opportunities for county residents. Davis wants to hire more EMS drivers.
Kidwell wants to repeal the EMS fee and “start over.” He wants to have two EMS units: one in Parsons and one on the mountain. Kidwell would like to help Tucker County become a more desirable year round tourist destination.
Hinkle stressed the momentum she helped build over her previous terms on the commission. She noted Tucker County’s large business growth and expressed a desire to bring that growth to Parsons. Broadband, housing, and EMS are priorities she articulated.
Many of the candidates shared similar beliefs when asked questions by the audience in Thomas. All of the candidates expressed a belief in upholding the Second Amendment but stressed the need for stronger background checks.
Every candidate approached the issue of broadband as a high priority and necessity to catalyzing economic growth. Expanding affordable healthcare and promoting tourism in Tucker County were both important issues to candidates across the board.