UNION - Democratic candidates seeking election to various government agencies gathered at the Union Community Building in Barbour County Friday night for a special forum hosted by the Barbour County Democratic Committee.
Democrats running for offices in the House of Delegates, the Senate, the nonpartisan Board of Education and the County Commission each had the opportunity to speak about their campaign.
Chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee Jude McConnell said voting was important and that this election could be one of the most important ones yet. He also spoke on behalf of Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who was unable to make it to the forum for personal reasons. Tennant is running for U.S. Senate.
"I can win this race and put West Virginia first," McConnell said as he read Tennant's prepared statement.
In the statement, Tennant said she has cut spending and reduced paperwork for the Secretary of State's office and is "proud of her reign." She said she has returned $3 million to tax payers. Tennant said she has made it easier for businesses to register and file reports.
The State Senate candidate for the 14th district, Stan Shaver, said he was a lifelong learner.
"I really sincerely feel that I can get the job done," Shaver said.
Shaver said that it can't be said that he is not supportive of gun use because he is an NRA Wild Turkey Hunter Clinic Instructor. His campaign card states that he also is a former five-term Delegate who votes for the people and not for a party and that he has a master's degree in educational leadership.
"I'm retired; I'm going to work hard at it; everyone is going to be treated the way that they should be, county by county," Shaver said. "I would thoroughly enjoy your support."
Speaking on behalf of West Virginia State Auditor Glen B. Gainer who is running for the House of Representatives in the Wood district, Jim Terango said that Gainer is one of the most honest, sincere and dedicated men he's ever met.
"He (Gainer) is one of the most humble people there is," Terango said.
He said that Gainer has worked as a corporate inspector for Wendy's, became a Randolph County EMT and did not spend his entire career in the government.
"Anybody that says Glen Gainer has not worked outside the government doesn't know what they're talking about," Terango said, later adding that if Gainer is elected, "you're going to be sending a good guy to the Congressional district."
Two House of Delegates candidates also spoke. Candidate Tammy Stemple said she grew up with the teaching that voting is important. She also said that she believes that education is the key. Stemple, who currently serves as the Philippi City Clerk, said she has also worked in retail, as a maid and at a theater. She said that she is the director of Philippi Main Street, a business development organization, as well. Stemple said she believes she has the public service and municipal government experience that is needed.
"I've seen how it works," Stemple said. "I see how issues get solved. So my exposure to that over the years, I think has given me a little insight on how to work with people to compromise with problem-solving.
"I have strong feelings about working to make the lives of the middle-class and poor better," Stemple continued. "I want to work to lift people up through education, through closing the income gap that has widened over the past several decades between the poor and middle-class and the affluent. I think it's especially important when we have so many women who are heads of households in our state and throughout the country, who are raising family, that they have the opportunity to have a fair and living wage."
Another candidate in the race for House of Delegates is Ken Auvil who created the campaign slogan "your vote is not for sale."
"In the past 30 years, the rich have gotten richer, the poor have gotten poorer... women are still making less than 80 percent of what men make," Auvil said.
"Big money wins when the voters stay home," Auvil later added. "Unless the voters stand up and take back our government from the influence of unrestrained money, we may be headed for the nightmare of the brave new world with the rich inside all the gates and the rest of us outside."
Auvil also said when "they convince you not to go vote, they win," and that he believes the public's vote is not for sale.
Del. Mary Poling, D-Barbour, who is not seeking re-election, attended the forum.
"I believe that with my age and my family situation it's time for me to retire," Poling said.
Poling also said that this election is going to be one of the most important elections because the margins are close enough that Republicans could win the House.
One candidate for Barbour County Commission, Adam Marsh, also spoke. Marsh said that he wants to bring business to Barbour County.
"We have a great community," Marsh said. "We should be able to get more small businesses."
Marsh also said that he believes that economic growth in the form of small business for Barbour County is easily attainable.
"The Belington and Junior area need to grow to help this county out," Marsh said, adding that the completion of Corridor H is about five-and-a-half years away.
If a highway is just a short distance away, businesses would be willing to come, Marsh said, adding that Alderson Broaddus University is growing and the county needs to start working with them as well.
"It just saddens me the way we've went downhill," Marsh said. "I believe that we can make projects and have a better community 20 years down the road for our kids."
Marsh also said that he wants to be accessible to the public and is willing to listen to ideas. He said that when the derecho storm hit, only one shelter in Barbour County was open. He said that shelter's location was not advertised in a way that would allow people to learn about it. Marsh suggested that an emergency plan be published in newspapers regularly so that the public has access to it and knows where they can turn in an emergency.
Board of Education candidates also had the opportunity to speak. Write-in Candidate Jeff Davis, running for the South District, was unable to attend.
McConnell spoke on behalf of his wife, the incumbent Joanne McConnell, a candidate running for the North District who was unable to attend. He said that his wife is diligent about reading hundreds of pages of documents in the Barbour County BOE agenda so that nothing is simply pushed passed the BOE.
"She's a hard worker," McConnell said. "I can't believe she can sit down and will read 140-some page agenda. Some of those agendas are 340 some pages. She'll read all 340 some pages before the meeting. She does it; she says 'I want to be prepared.'
"She knows that many things get pushed passed the board because they don't know what's truly going on. She's worked hard for that."
Reg Trefethen is a write-in candidate vying for a position on the BOE for the West District.
"I have a great love for children and I love this country," Trefethen said.
Trefethen said he has been a Barbour County resident for seven years and that he used to work for World Vision. He said he is happy to work in an area where people have godly values and morals.
"When we think of all the kids in our county, they are our future," Trefethen said. "I will always do the right thing. Although I haven't lived here long, I feel that I am a West Virginian."
In the South District, Dave Everson is also running for the BOE as a write-in candidate.
"I pushed and strived for excellence in education when I was a teacher," Everson said, adding that he has spent the last two years working as a substitute teacher. "I won't settle for anything else."
Everson said he is a Barbour County native who retired from teaching science in 2008 at Philip Barbour High School. He has worked in education for at least 31 years.
"It seems like all of my life has been involved with Barbour County education," Everson said.
Contact Melissa Toothman by email at email@example.com.