By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
The Tucker County Chamber of Commerce hosted a Meet Your Candidates event at the Senior Center on Wednesday, October 17 that was very well attended. Board President Andy Snyder served as the emcee for the evening, introducing the candidates and keeping order to the discussion. Time limits were set and strictly adhered to, ensuring equality to everyone involved. After each candidate had an opportunity to speak, the floor was open to questions from the public as well as a group of TCHS students. Light refreshments were provided by the Randolph, Tucker, and Barbour Real Estate Association.
Beginning with the local campaign, Snyder introduced incumbent Commission President, Diane Hinkle (D). “Those of you who know me know I like a good horse race, and with this campaign I feel like I’ve been stuck in the start gate”, she began. Hinkle recapped what the current county commission has been working diligently on, such as the nuisance ordinance, Senate Bill 625, the EMS fee, the Emergency Response Facility, and other topics. “It takes us being active with our representatives in Charleston”, Hinkle affirmed by not just relying on those in Charleston to know what our county needs. “98% of what commission does is problem solving”, she stated, “It’s managing and administering our county budget”, she added. “I have been active in the community over forty years, I have contacts in the region and state, and beyond and I would like to bring that to the table with commission”, Hinkle said. “We need jobs but we need housing, we need to pay people what they deserve, we need high speed broadband”, Hinkle went on. “Why am I running for this office? Because I care.” she stated. “You can’t make everybody happy in this job but we have to persevere”. “If you have a candidate who wants change, make sure you know what that change looks like, if they say they are your voice, make sure your voice is the same”, she concluded.
Running against Hinkle as a write in candidate is Fred Davis, who was unable to attend the meeting. Candidate Chris Phillips (R) spoke first in the running for the District 47 House of Delegates. Phillips began by telling the audience his background with his family owning Shop N’ Save, which began as one small location in Belington to now fourteen facilities state wide. “That gives me a unique perspective on how to attract and grow businesses in West Virginia”, Phillips continued. “If we don’t have an active, expanding tax base we can’t do anything. We can’t take care of our seniors”, he stated. He expressed concern regarding the public education standards and the concern for an educated work force. “Last year I believe we were last as a state in SAT scores. We can’t accept that anymore, we’re letting our kids down”, he said. Phillips agreed there have been vast improvements within the last few years, but realizes there are serious problems that still need addressed. Endorsements include West Virginians for Life, NRA, an A rating with the Citizens Defense League, and WV Business and Industry Council.
Ed Larry (D), running against Phillips, took the floor thanking those in attendance and the chamber for hosting. Larry gave some background information regarding his family, being a teacher, administrator, coach, and principal in Barbour County. Larry is also vastly involved in his community with the blue and grey reunion, historical museum, a council member, and several other organizations. “We need to provide water and sewage for our rural areas in West Virginia….we need to provide for Larry also touched on the drug problem West Virginia is experiencing and the downward spiral of tax payers our state has lost. “If you don’t have the infrastructure, you won’t have the business”, he implied. He promotes the teacher strike and participated with them. Larry is sponsored by the West Virginia Education Association, 55 Strong, Barbour County Education Association, the WV American Federation of Teachers, and the WV School Service Personnel.
Running for District 53 House of Delegates, is Cory Chase (D). Chase is a born and raised native of Tucker County and still resides here with his daughter. He is a graduate of TCHS, massage therapy school, and WVU in 2009 graduating Magna Cum Laude with interests in liberal arts, sciences, and philosophies. “I am running for the House of Delegates to definitely represent real people”, Chase proudly stated. “Jobs and economy are really important things we need to try to wrestle with between people and government and freedom to do what you want with life and live a fulfilling and productive life”, he said. “I’m running definitely to represent people and not just big money interests that fund some people. They get elected and turn their backs on you and they don’t seem to be really representing what people want”, he added. Chase touched more on the corruption of super packs and secret money in our elections, campaign fundraising during elections, the opioid epidemic and successful addiction programs, the tax structure, healthcare, and taking care of our seniors. “Obviously infrastructure is a big deal”, he stated and referenced the new highway coming our way. “We need to make Parsons a destination”, Chase concluded. Chase is endorsed by Labor Unions, nurses, teachers, State Troopers Association, and the Electricians/Plumbers/Pipefitters Unions.
Facing off against Chase is “Buck” Jennings (R) who was eager to address the crowd in a more casual manner. Jennings began by addressing the students in the crowd, “You are the future, and you just got to keep on going”, he told them. “Stand up for what you believe in and listen to all sides, never get closed minded”, he suggested. Jennings started by giving his background in terms of his family and their accomplishments. “The reason I got into this was my grandchildren….I want them to stay here….but to do that they have to have opportunity”, he said. Jennings has also served as a firefighter in Fellowsville, an EMT, and a paramedic, which are big topics on his agenda in Charleston. “As you come up through the community, the community takes care of you until it’s your turn”, Jennings implied. “The foundation for me in building up our communities is our children and their education”, he continued, making education another priority for his intentions. “Tucker County has one of the highest graduation rates from high school to college in the state, and that’s because it’s a small school”, he informed as he shows his support for small schools. According to Jennings, the Republican Party wants to transfer control of the education requirements from Charleston to the county’s themselves. He continued to touch on Corridor H, the drug problems, and business climate in specific to entrepreneurs.
Representative for District 14 for the WV Senate Stephanie Zucker (D) was called upon and began introducing herself. “I am a small business owner, a scientist, a wife and a mom, and I’m running for senate because I’m sick and tired of the legislature selling us out”, Zucker opened. She has been involved with the teacher strike, experienced our roadways and spoke with the DOH (Department of Highways), sat in on PEIA (state employee insurance) meetings, toured gas fields, and has spoken with addicts and recovery experts. Zucker is a home school mother and very supportive of the public school system. “If you send me to Charleston, three of my top priorities will be economic justice for working people, infrastructure, and taking care of the most vulnerable among us”, she continued. Zucker is for the small businesses, expanding broadband access, supporting outdoor recreation, and clean water. “We must also protect and invest in our public land, trails, and river access points to improve access to our wild and wonderful rivers and mountains”, she stated. The opioid epidemic, foster system, health care, the tax system, and poverty levels were all topics Zucker briefly touched on during her allotted time. Endorsements for her campaign include all three Teachers Unions, nurses, electricians, plumbers, miners, pipefitters, painters, WV Working Families, the Sierra Club, along with the United Mine Workers of America.
Counterpart for that particular senate race was Dave Sypolt (R). “Of all the candidate forums we’ve been to this year, I think this is the best turnout so far”, Sypolt began. He mentioned that West Virginia is the only state in the union that is continuing to lose population. Sypolt’s reaction was due to the former rumor that if you wanted to work, you had to go elsewhere, or that other states were more business friendly. He also mentioned the natural resources WV has to offer, such as coal and natural gas pipelines. “To state that we give away our natural resources is simply not true” he continued. “Severance tax in West Virginia are actually five times higher than the same severance tax in Ohio, I can prove it to you it’s not a problem, and they’re four times higher than Pennsylvania”, Sypolt explained. “The largest part of the state budget is through personal income tax. You know what grows when people get jobs in the state? Personal income tax”, he replied. “We actually have a job shortage in our state. Do you want to know why we have so many out of state plates? We have more jobs than we have people”, Sypolt suggested. Sypolt mentioned he feels the growth of revenue will aid in his agenda items such as repairing roadways, recruiting more teachers at higher wages, lack of state employee wages, increases for retired state employees, or funding for mental illness. “I would suggest to you that making a change right now would be a terrible mistake while we’re finally getting a chance to prosper”, Sypolt closed.
Incumbent United States Congressman David McKinley (R) was unable to attend, however he sent a letter of address that Chris Phillips read to the crowd. McKinley has served in this position since 2011 in Washington D.C. His main areas of concern include creating jobs while keeping taxes low, cutting wasteful spending, promoting American energy, and keeping promises to our seniors regarding Medicare and social security, and the drug epidemic. McKinley is in favor of the tax reform previously issued, and feels full results will be seen by tax day in 2019. As Phillips continued reading, he mentioned “the unemployment rate is lower than it has been in seventeen years”, but McKinley realizes many working Americans are still struggling. “I’ll never stop fighting for West Virginia”, read Phillips as he closed.
Kendra Fershee (D) is hoping to unseat McKinley and serve as our new representative in the U.S House of Representatives. Fershee apologized firstly for being late; she teaches class at the WVU Law School which set her behind. Fershee mentioned how on her travels, she was catching up on phone calls, having perfect cell phone service, but the roads were atrocious. Farther along in her travels, she said she reached a point with much better roads, however she had no cell reception. This lead to some of her concerns for road maintenance and broadband, health and welfare, public education, and the drug epidemic. Fershee shared some of her background being a full time teacher and a mother. “I feel like what’s happening right now in our government, in D.C., is our elected officials aren’t serving the people of their districts”, she stated. “They don’t necessarily want what’s right for West Virginia”, Fershee feels. “The big motivator for me was my students”, she said in terms of why she is running. Fershee knows a lot of the students who come through the law school feel once they graduate they have no choice but to leave our state because they can’t find jobs”. The motto behind her campaign is “I’d like to go to Washington to fight for your freedom to stay in West Virginia”.
For the district three senate race of Joe Manchin (D) versus Patrick Morrisey (R), neither could attend but had asked others to speak on their behalf. First was Senator Randy Smith speaking for Morrisey. Smith was happy to be back in his home area and glad to see the turn out for the event. Morrisey apologized for his inability to attend, however Smith met him back in 2012 and felt he could share some of his visions and characteristics. The issue that brought them together was over broadband and the Frontier Communications law suit, which he knows is a serious problem in our state. Smith, a coal miner, had another interaction with him over the unlawful regulation of the mines. Morrisey went to court with almost twenty other states and won. He was also in opposition of the water regulation suggestions that would put a severe hindrance on farmers and other WV jobs such as logging. Morrisey took this case to court as well and put a stop to it. Smith continued with two of the biggest values that really stuck with him about Patrick Morrisey. First being his support for second amendment rights with an A+ rating with the NRA, the Citizens Defense League, and Gun Owners of America, and second the Right to Life. Morrisey is also endorsed by Pro-Life, “I feel he’s a true conservative”, Smith finished, stating he wouldn’t be answering any questions on his behalf, not feeling it to be fair.
Last to speak, on behalf of incumbent Senator Joe Manchin (D), was Anne Jones. She stressed the importance of getting out and voting when there have been several races in our county dictated by just a couple votes. Earlier that morning, Jones had contacted the Secretary of State to inquire about the county voter registration statistics, in which she was informed in the last two weeks, forty men and women have registered to vote. When Jones was the Director of Economic Development, she had the privilege to work with Manchin In lieu of recent broadband issues, Manchin didn’t only make phone calls on our behalf, but he contacted several providers (AT&T, Verizon, etc) from D.C. and brought them to Tucker County to see for themselves the true nuisance our citizens are encountering on a daily basis. Jones continued by reading a message sent by Senator Manchin for this event. “I am proud to be a West Virginian”, she read. “As West Virginians, we look each other in the eye, we mean what we say, we’re proud, patriotic, and faithful”, Manchin wrote. “I humbly ask for your vote so I can continue to protect healthcare, and to assure that hundreds of thousands of West Virginians aren’t penalized for diabetes, for being pregnant, for having mental health issues”. Manchin stated he would never vote to cut social security or health care, and always supports our second amendment rights, supports our educators and workers, honor our veterans, and fight drug abuse.
The floor was opened briefly for questions from the TCHS students and the general public, and responses were limited to about a minute. Most of these questions referred to how they plan to bring their supported infrastructures to our rural area, and how they plan to preserve the beauty of our great state. A question was also asked on the stance of the candidates regarding home school since most mentioned their support of the public education system. The candidates addressed responded accordingly, before a question about medical and adult recreational cannabis legalization started a heated discussion, and Snyder called the meeting to an end.