WEIRTON - Area residents had the opportunity to hear directly from the candidates in some of this year's biggest political races during a candidate forum held in Weirton Monday.
The event, sponsored by the Weirton Woman's Club, was held at the Serbian American Cultural Center and included candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, West Virginia Secretary of State, state Supreme Court of Appeals, state Senate, House of Delegates and many local offices.
It was moderated by Bray Cary, president and chief executive officer of West Virginia Media.
U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-Wheeling, discussed his continuing concerns with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the need to strengthen Social Security and Medicare.
He also stressed the need for job creation, citing the stalled Keystone Pipeline project as something that could create up to 20,000 jobs if the government would allow it to move forward.
McKinley said he is listening to the needs of his constituents, holding town hall meetings and other events throughout the district.
MEET THE CANDIDATES — Bray Cary, president and chief executive officer of West Virginia Media, served as the moderator of Monday’s forum, introducing and questioning each of the candidates on the stage. The event was sponsored by the Weirton Woman’s Club and included candidates for national, state and local offices. -- Craig Howell
"I'm not there to represent my party," McKinley said, noting every bill he has proposed has been a bipartisan effort.
McKinley's challenger, Democrat Sue Thorn, said she wants to focus on job creation, saving Social Security and Medicare and helping the nation's veterans.
"We need to get people back to work," Thorn said, encouraging the use of American-made products in the nation's manufacturing. "The middle class is the economic engine for this country and we have to strengthen it."
Other candidates in attendance at Monday's forum included:
Jeff Davis, Democrat, Hancock County Commission.
Mark Tetrault, Republican, Hancock County Commission.
Ralph Fletcher, Democrat, Hancock County Sheriff.
Ronald Haggerty Sr., Republican, Hancock County Sheriff.
Scott Hicks, Democrat, Hancock County Magistrate.
Mike Powell, Democrat, Hancock County Magistrate.
Betty Bauer, Democrat, Hancock County Magistrate.
Robin Snyder, Democrat, Brooke County Magistrate.
Thorn also proposed increasing taxes on the nation's wealthiest 2 percent, cutting defense spending through the elimination of no-bid contracts for the military.
Sharon Maloney, wife of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney, appeared on her husband's behalf, saying he wants to find ways to create jobs, control government spending, clean up government corruption and improve the state's education system.
Letitia "Tish" Chafin, who grew up in Weirton, is a Democrat running for the state Supreme Court of Appeals. She said she knows residents of the Northern Panhandle often feel disconnected from Charleston and wants to make sure all residents of the state feel equal when appearing before the state's highest court.
Chafin also promoted her Balanced Court Initiative and discussed the state's efforts to deal with juvenile crime and drug problems.
Brian Savilla, a Republican from Putnam County who is running for West Virginia Secretary of State, said he is the polar opposite of his opponent, current Secretary of State Natalie Tennant.
He said he is against initiatives such as Internet voting and same-day registration, and has favored the Voter ID program, which would require a government-recognized form of identification in order to cast a vote.
"We should be doing everything we can to secure our election process," Savilla said.
Savilla also encouraged residents to do their research on each of the candidates and addressed incidents of election corruption in many of the state's counties.
Democratic incumbent Jack Yost and Republican candidate Pat McGeehan also appeared, speaking on their platforms for the state Senate race to represent the 1st District.
Yost, who has served in the Legislature since 2002, first as a member of the House of Delegates and then as state senator, said he feels West Virginia is moving forward with the growth of the natural gas industry.
He also promoted the work to eliminate some of the state's taxes, such as the food tax and said he believes all business taxes will be eliminated by 2015.
McGeehan, who served on term in the House of Delegates representing Hancock County, said he feels the Constitution is "being trampled." He noted a bill passed by the state Legislature that he said is a form of cap and trade, and would cause increased difficulty for the state's coal industry.
"We're the Saudi Arabia of coal," McGeehan said. "To pass that in West Virginia is beyond me."
McGeehan also said the state needs to reverse course when it comes to the increasing size of government
Three candidates for House of Delegates in Hancock County were in attendance, with incumbent Democrats Randy Swartzmiller and Ronnie Jones, and Republican challenger Carl Thompson speaking.
Swartzmiller vowed to continue working for the people of the area, saying he wants to see the ArcelorMittal property freed up to help with economic development.
"We have to have our own vision," Swartzmiller said. "We can't keep living in the past."
Jones said he has enjoyed his first term in the House, noting he is not in favor of single-representative districts as they would decrease the amount of state funds able to return to the area.
Thompson said he would work for fewer regulations and keep the lines of communication open with his constituents, if elected, adding he is tired of seeing West Virginia on the bottom of the ranks in the categories that matter.
"I'd like to see a future here for me and my kids," he said.
Lynn Davis, a Republican, was the sole candidate appearing for the House of Delegates seat to represent Brooke County. She promoted a need to improve the state's education system, said she is in favor of single-member legislative districts and feels reform is needed in the state's business regulations, tax code and tort system.
(Howell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)