Candidates speak at public forum

The Inter-Mountain photo by Sarah Goodrich Candidates for the West Virginia House of Delegates discuss state issues during a forum hosted Wednesday night at Buckhannon-Upshur High School. From left are Caleb Hanna, candidate for District 44; Patrick Martin, candidate for District 46; Bob Kinkaid, candidate for District 45; Robbie Martin, candidate for District 45; Matt Kerner, candidate for District 45; and Bob Stultz, candidate for District 46.

TENNERTON — The Buckhannon-Upshur Youth Leadership Association hosted its second candidate forum allowing community members the opportunity to meet with state and national candidates running in the primary election.

Hosted at Buckhannon-Upshur High School Wednesday evening, the event allowed community members to inquire about candidates’ thoughts about solutions for county and statewide issues.

House of Delegates — District 44

One community member directed a question to all candidates asking, “What specifically will you do to move West Virginia toward renewable energy, clean water and air and safe, long-term employment in a diversified economy?”

Caleb Hanna, who is a candidate for the House of Delegates — District 44, said he believes the Earth is in a cycle right now, noting he can’t fully agree with what is going on with global warming.

“But I can tell you that I do think we need to be responsible about how we extract fossil fuels,” said Hanna, who currently attends Richwood High School. “For every one regulation we put forth, I really think we need to repeal two. So if we have smart regulations we should be slashing regulations that we don’t need for those regulations that we’re putting forth.”

He added he believed that the economy needs to be diversified, saying, “We’ve relied on coal for so long and it’s been great to us, and it’s coming back. It really is. But it’ll never come back to what it was before.”

Hanna’s challengers Elijah Karnes, Dana L. Lynch, Dan E. McCourt and Barbara Daniels were not present during the forum; however, Daniels did send over a recorded message to play for the public.

House of Delegates — District 46

Patrick Martin, the incumbent candidate for the House of Delegates – District 46, started out answering the question stating he supports coal and natural gas “wholeheartedly.”

“I understand diversifying, but I don’t think the government should be getting subsidies to wind and solar energy,” Martin said. “I think that if we have a free market and we allow that market to work itself out that we can start using that when it becomes economically feasible, but we just haven’t came to that part yet.”

Martin agreed with Hanna that on every new regulation created, two regulations need to be eliminated.

Martin’s challenger, Robert “Bob Stultz, said the economy does need to be diversified, and, “We need to hold those industries accountable for their actions so that we do have a safe and clean environment.”

“It can be done in a responsible manner, but we do need to diversify our economy so that we don’t have the cycles of the up and down economy with just the coal,” Stultz said.

West Virginia State Senate — District 11

An Upshur County teacher posed a question to the candidates running for West Virginia State Senate – District 11, asking, “How are you going to make sure that we have real money for our schools and we get the funding and resources we need and continue to support and advocate to keep teachers in West Virginia?”

First to answer was Laura M. Fitch, who thanked the teacher “for standing up for what’s right.”

“We can have the best public education school system money can buy if we’re willing to ask all this industry that’s being spoken of to pay its fair share,” Fitch said. “And it’s not going to be about just increasing teachers’ pay … but it’s also going to be about what I believe is the greatest challenge facing education, which is poverty.”

Fitch said struggling families need to be helped so that the children can get the education they deserve.

Bill Hamilton answered the question by saying “education is an investment.”

“It’s an investment for everyone of us, and we need to do a better job. I think 54 percent of our budget goes toward either higher education or secondary education, but we need to do better,” Hamilton said. “Your teachers’ salary (ranking) was 48th and now you’re 43rd. Our salaries as a senator or delegate are ranked about 24th. There’s something wrong with that picture.”

In order to fill the more than 700 teacher vacancies in the state, Hamilton said teachers’ salaries need to be brought to the level of a senator/delegate.

Incumbent Robert Karnes said the following question needs to be answered: “Is what we’re doing in West Virginia working?”

“And the answer is clearly no. … We know that what we’ve in the past doesn’t work, so then we ask ourselves, ‘What have we done that’s done so much damage?'” he said. “And what we’ve done is we’ve always gone for the tax increase. … The way that we’re going to make sure teachers get better pay and I fully support teachers getting better pay – 100 percent support teachers and state employees getting better pay — but the way we do that is growing our economy. …”

Margaret Kerr Beckwith, who also is running for Senate – District 11, was not in attendance at the forum.

U.S. Senate

A question concerning steps on combating the opioid epidemic was asked to all candidates.

U.S. Senate candidate Thomas “Tom” Willis said the posed question “is probably the most important question facing us as state right now.”

“The opioid crisis is an economic security issue, in my opinion. It’s a national security issue,” Willis said, noting there are three prongs to address the epidemic — education, prevention and enforcement. “We really need to focus on educating our young people about the dangers of this drug. It’s not something to be experimented with. It’s not an adventure. It can ruin your life.”

Willis said combating the epidemic needs a “whole-society approach,” including the government, families, schools, etc.

Willis’ challengers Bo Copley, Jack Newbrough and Patrick Morrisey were absent. Other challengers — Don Blankenship, Evan Jenkins and Paula Jean Swearengin — had proxies relay messages to the public. Attendees were presented with a video message from U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin.

House of Delegates — District 45

Candidates running for House of Delegates — District 45 also delivered their thoughts on the crisis.

Robert “Bob” Kinkaid said heroin and opioids are not a new problem, adding in the 1960s “it was just as bad.”

“We haven’t done much about it in the last 45 years, but the first thing we need to do is educate our young folks and have a cultural change,” Kinkaid said. “It’s not the solution when they get depressed or they get out of sorts, and it’s not a solution when you don’t have a job.”

He added the information needs to be relayed to the youth through the system and have “good detection capabilities” to identify when a child is having a problem.

Matthew Kerner said he was the second chairperson of Ucare, an organization that started after four girls from Buckhannon-Upshur High School died in an alcohol-related car wreck.

“The shine of that wore off quickly. We had difficulty getting teachers to participate. We have difficulty getting access to kids so that we could present evidence-based programming to try to provide prevention,” Kerner said.

Kerner added better programs in prevention, intervention treatment and recovery need to be built.

Concerning the same question, Carl “Robbie” Martin said “it’s all about education.”

“Education is a driving force to success, and we really need to educate our students from a young age on the specs of drugs — what they will do if you start taking drugs — and noticing other people and seeing the effects of them,” he said.

Robbie Martin added he agrees with Kerner on the prevention of drugs.

2nd District U.S. House of Representatives

Candidates for the 2nd District of the United State House of Representatives: incumbent Alex Mooney, and challengers Aaron Scheinberg and Talley Sergent, were absent during the forum; however, proxies for Scheinberg and Sergent relayed the candidates’ messages.