Commissioner announces candidacy

CHARLESTON — Ben Salango, an attorney and a Kanawha County commissioner, took to a podium Thursday before dozens of supporters to announce his candidacy in the Democartic primary for governor of West Virginia.

Salango, joined by his wife and Kanawha Circuit Court Judge Tera Salango and their children, help a campaign kick-off in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center near downtown Charleston Thursday morning.

“My name is Ben Salango and I’m running to be governor for the people of West Virginia,” Salango said to cheers and applause. “We’re gathered here at the Martin Luther King Center. This place means a lot to me because it proves that with the right kind of hepl, our communities can work to lift themselves up. It shows that if we put in the work – together – we can make a start at giving our kids and our communities a chance at a better life.”

Salango, 46, was raised in Raleigh County. He is a graduate of the West Virginia University College of Law and co-founded the law firm Preston and Salango in 2006. He was selected as one of the “Best Lawyers in America” in 2013 and Lawyer of the Year earlier this year, He was appointed to the Kanawha County Commission in 2017 to replace David Hardy, then elected to the commission in 2018.

“From helping children, to helping seniors, to economic development, I realized that being a public servant is a privilege and an honor,” Salango said. “For me, it is about public service, not about self-service. It’s about helping the people of this state I love and not the big corporations that just want to keep taking advantage of us.”

During his short tenure on the Kanawha County Commission, Salango helped balance the budget for the largest county in the state. Salango also led the project that later became the Shawnee Sports Complex, multiple professional soccer and baseball/softball fields near Institute that has brought in more then $20 million in revenue so far in 2019.

Salango took numerous shots at Gov. Jim Justice, who won election for governor in 2016 as a Democrat but switched parties in 2017 and is running for reelection as a Republican. Justice is being sued for not following the state constitution by not living in Charleston as required.

“It’s been said that half of life is showing up. Well, we have a governor who doesn’t really care about that,” Salango said. If you had an employee who refused to come to work, who constantly crossed ethical boundaries and who used his position to promote other interests, would you keep that employee on or replace him?”

“That’s the situation that we face here in West Virginia,” Salango continued. “Our current governor thinks he can take advantage of us just like his out-of-state corporate pals do. Well, I say enough is enough.”

Salango is one of six Democrats running in the May 12 primary, including former WV Healthy Kids and Families Coalition leader Stephen Smith, former Pleasants County economic development official Jody Murphy, and Boone County doctor and state Sen. Ron Stollings. Speaking to reporters after his announcement, Salango said he can make the case statewide on why he is a better choice.

“I’m going to work hard to make sure that the people around the State of West Virginia who haven’t heard of me learn about me and what I have to offer,” Salango said.

Salango said his focus will be on improving education, fighting the opioid crisis, and growing the state’s economy. Salango wants to take a look at what is working in parts of the state and find a way to take those solutions statewide.

“I think we have to focus a lot of our efforts on what we’re doing well already,” Salango said. “We need to work on the Eastern panhandle. We need to make sure that hospitals like (the Ohio Valley Medical Center) don’t close and that we’re actually involved from the beginning when those negotiations start to break down. We need to actually make those calls to the companies to get them to come in. That’s what I’ve done as a county commissioner.”