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Southern Upshur Business Association meets the candidates virtually

BUCKHANNON – The Southern Upshur Business Association SUBA hosted a Virtual Meet the Candidates Night Tuesday evening, giving everyone an opportunity to hear about the candidates on the ballot in the upcoming General Election and allowing those ‘zooming in’ to ask questions of those candidates.

SUBA President Kevin Campbell served as the moderator and host and he said the recording of Tuesday’s Virtual Meet the Candidates would be available for viewing up to the date of the General Election. Each candidate was given three minutes to tell about themselves followed by a time slot for questions from the audience.

Locally, Democrat Denise Campbell and Republican Robert Karnes are vying for the seat in West Virginia’s 11th senatorial district, which includes Nicholas, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Randolph, Upshur and Webster counties and part of Grant County.

Karnes said for him, the election was about jobs.

“Republicans have worked on regulatory reform, tort reform and education reform in an effort to improve our economy and expand opportunities for our children,” Karnes said in an email to My Buckhannon following the Meet the Candidate Night. “We have added more than 10,000 jobs since I was elected in 2014 and before COVID hit. Our limited government, low tax, pro-freedom agenda is working, and we should continue in that effort.”

Karnes said he believes the next big hurdle to jump is significant tax reform.

“I am currently being attacked in a very dishonest way over Senate Bill 335 by my opponent and her dark money PAC friends,” Karnes said. “They are claiming the largest tax cut in West Virginia history was a tax increase. Senate Bill 335 was given a Fiscal Note indicating it was an $800 million tax cut over five years. It was the largest tax cut in West Virginia history and would have ended the state income tax in West Virginia in three years.”

Karnes explained he wants to eliminate state income tax in West Virginia because the nine states that do not have a state income tax lead the nation in economic growth and job growth.

“We can be a part of that success. While 10,000 jobs was a great start, with meaningful tax reform and a willingness to say ‘no’ to any tax hikes, we could see 100,000 new jobs,” Karnes said. “That is what we should all be working for.”

He said the message is a powerful one and that then-Democratic Governor Jim Justice signed on the legislation to end the income tax.

“When the ‘Tax and Spend Democrats’ obstructed our efforts in the Legislature, Governor Justice switched parties and became a Republican,” Karnes shared.

Karnes said he will put an end to the $15 million greyhound racing subsidy.

“I am the only candidate that never voted for a tax increase and I won’t in the future. I am the only 100 percent pro-life candidate, and I am the only 100 percent pro-jobs candidate,” he said. “I have been endorsed by every major business and freedom-oriented group in West Virginia including the WV Business and Industry Council, WV Coal Association/Friends of Coal, WV Chamber of Commerce, West Virginians for Life, West Virginia Citizens Defense League, West Virginia Manufacturers Association, Community Bankers, Family Policy Council and NRA A-Rated.”

Karnes website is at http://robertkarnes.com/ and his Facebook is located at Senator Robert Karnes.

Campbell said she proudly served the residents of Pocahontas and Randolph counties for three terms as a delegate for the 43rd district in the West Virginia Legislature and looks forward to representing constituents again as their West Virginia Senator.

Campbell said she has a strong desire to help, advocate and represent the citizens of West Virginia.

“As a proven leader with more than 30 years of experience in healthcare, and as a previous West Virginia delegate, I believe being the representative of the 11th Senatorial District would allow me to expand my ability to help more citizens of West Virginia.”

Campbell said she feels West Virginia needs to have a plan to ensure citizens have access to healthcare and to help protect community hospitals, which are a valuable resource.

“The 11th Senatorial district needs someone who knows how to get things done and I am one that can do that, and I have done that,” she said. “My experience as a delegate for the 43rd District in the West Virginia Legislature has given me the ability to develop relationships that allowed me to work with fellow legislators both in the House and Senate. I proudly served three terms as a delegate.”

Campbell said she feels it is important to work together to make West Virginia stronger.

“When we work together, we can accomplish great things, and I will continue to work with members of the Legislature to do what is best for West Virginia citizens and help move the Mountain State in the right direction,” she said.

She said she is committed to citizens in West Virginia.

“I advocate for their concerns and issues first and foremost,” Campbell said. “We need jobs, broadband access to encourage businesses to locate in West Virginia, programs that encourage our students to stay in school and plans to encourage those graduates to remain in West Virginia. We need a trained workforce, treatment for those with addictions and protection and support for our seniors, children, Veterans and coal miners.”

Campbell said she understands the importance of looking at issues from all sides.

“I have learned to see how each decision will affect the district and the people who reside there,” she said. “The citizens of West Virginia are what makes this a wonderful state and the greatest place to live, work and raise a family.”

She has received endorsements from the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, American Federation of Teachers, the West Virginia Education Association, United Steel Workers, the United Mine Workers of America, AFL-CIO and the WV Sheriff’s Association.

Campbell is married to Ric Campbell and is the mother of two sons. She is a registered nurse and currently teaches in the Alderson Broaddus University School of Nursing. She is a graduate of Elkins High School, Davis & Elkins College, Alderson Broaddus University, Marshall University, and most recently, received a Doctorate in Nursing Practice with a focus in health care policy.

“I will take being an advocate for the people of my district as my priority. I want to be the voice of the people – the voice of rural West Virginia! I will make sure the people of West Virginia always come first,” she said.

Additional information about Campbell is available on her website at www.campbell4wvsenate.com and her Facebook page at Denise Campbell for West Virginia Senate – 11th Senatorial District.

Other candidates participating in Tuesday’s SUBA Virtual Meet the Candidates Night included:

Cathy Kunkel, Democrat candidate for West Virginia’s Second Congressional District.

She said she has spent the last decade working on energy and safe drinking water issues in West Virginia.

“As a consumer advocate, I have testified many times to our state Public Service Commission, fought with our state’s utility monopolies, and fought for stronger programs like rooftop solar energy programs,” Kunkel said. “I have been very involved in Charleston, where I have lived since 2014 when we had the Freedom Industries chemical spill that contaminated the drinking water here.”

Kunkel said she helped cofound an organization called ‘Rise Up West Virginia’ that helps advocate expanded access to health care.

“Rise Up also helps advocate for better services for folks struggling with addition in our communities,” she said.

“Our campaign is about creating an economy that works for all of us,” Kunkel said. “Right now, we have two families in our country who have more wealth than half the population and when some of the biggest corporations in our state and our country are not paying corporate income taxes when small businesses and ordinary folks like us … [that’s a problem].”

Kunkel said she feels the pandemic has taken the existing inequalities and made them worse.

“We need to build back smarter from this. We need to build up the small businesses that keep wealth in our state. We need to fight for billions of dollars for infrastructure we need in this state and build a strong economy going forward,” she said. “We need to guarantee basic economic rights for all, including health care and secure retirement.”

Additional information is available at www.kunkelforcongress.com and is on Facebook at Kunkel for Congress.

Erika Kolenich, Libertarian for West Virginia governor

She said she is running for governor and has been a practicing lawyer in Buckhannon since 2005.

“I am not a politician at all,” Kolenich said. “I started spending a lot of time in Charleston, and I found I became increasingly frustrated when I saw our legislators could not vote the way they wanted to or the way their constituents wanted them to vote or their political party would get mad at them. They were kicked out of caucuses and kicked out of committees, and it was very disheartening. I realized I could not sit on the sidelines and watch this system unfold in front of me.”

Kolenich said she decided to run for West Virginia governor because she wants to make a difference.

“The Libertarian philosophy is, ‘don’t hurt people and don’t take their things,’” Kolenich said. “I am running on a platform of the complete decriminalization of cannabis, eliminating unnecessary licensing and regulation requirements that hold small businesses in West Virginia back. For years, all we have done is try to cater to special industries and bring them in by giving them land, tax breaks and sweetheart deals. That has not worked out for us. It’s time that we start rewarding those who are here in West Virginia and who are operating small businesses and have opened small businesses in West Virginia.”

Kolenich said she has a plan to eliminate the personal income tax on individuals over four years.

Her website is www.nowisthetimewv.com or on Facebook at Erika Kolenich for Governor of West Virginia.

Riley Moore, Republican candidate for West Virginia treasurer

He said he feels many people wonder what the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office can do to help businesses across the state.

“The three things I want to bring to the office is for it to be more transparent, more accountable and more modern,” Moore explained. “For modernization, one of the things I want to put into place is a brand-new concept called the jump start savings plan. This is for blue-collar workers in West Virginia.”

Moore explained it would allow individuals to save money for tools, licenses, equipment and certifications in their trade or vocation as they come out of community college, technical college or trade school.

“This would allow them to have a very strong foot forward in their career path,” Moore said. “Twenty-five percent of West Virginias have a college degree – what are we doing for the other 75 percent?”

Moore’s website is www.mooreforwv.com and his Facebook page is Moore for WV State Treasurer.

Kent Leonhardt, incumbent Republican candidate for West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture

He said agriculture in the State of West Virginia is in an upswing.

“The USDA reported that West Virginia started 2020 with 5,000 more head of cattle than 2019,” Leonhardt said. “We have two meat processing plants that are under construction, one on abandoned mine land that is being repurposing. Our apiary section has been improved, and we are doing more inspections.”

Leonhardt said they are also doing instructions and trainings aimed at helping grow the honey production in West Virginia.

“Currently, we have 300 hemp growers and processers,” he said. “We have been promoting maple syrup production, and it is way up. There are three more poultry production houses going up in the Eastern Panhandle area, and we have many more backyard flocks that my staff is taking to look at to make sure we do not have any avian influenza.”

Leonhardt said there has been an increase in the number of farmers’ markets, and another project is to grow lavender on abandoned mine lands.

“Agritourism is up, hydroponics are up, high tunnel production with vegetables and fruit is up,” Leonhardt said. “We are giving more help to our veterans and participation in 4-H and FFA is up.”

Leonhardt’s website is www.kentforwv.com and his Facebook page is Commissioner Kent Leonhardt.

Robin Cutlip, a Democrat running for the House of Delegates for District 44

This district includes all of Webster County, and parts of Nicholas, Randolph and Upshur counties.

She said she is a mother, a wife, a grandmother and a public school teacher.

“I decided to run for office during the teachers’ strike,” Cutlip explained. “My husband, who is also a school teacher, and I attended the strikes and we were at the Capitol everyday during the strike and we saw the voices of the teachers and the school service personnel were not being heard.”

Cutlip said nothing that the striking teachers fought for has been completed yet.

“PEIA is still on the back burner, the COVID resources were not being put into the schools as fast as they should, the students are still suffering from poor internet connections,” she said. “I decided to run because I want to be a voice for my schoolteachers, my school service personnel and for my students.”

Cutlip said she sees every day that students feel they need to leave the state for employment and other opportunities.

“West Virginia is supposed to be ‘Wild and Wonderful,’ but we turn away a lot of people,” Cutlip said. “Students leave because they do not feel welcome here whether it be because they can’t find good jobs, because of their sexual orientation or because of the way they feel they want to live their lives.”

Cutlip said she want to be an advocate for students and an ally for every person in West Virginia.

“My platform is very simple – I feel it all connects back to, it’s just a circle and until we reach in and start helping people of this state, the population is going to decrease, and we are going to lose wonderful people who can make this state great,” Cutlip said. “Public education is the forefront of my platform. I want to make sure every school in the county, every school in the state, has crisis prevention counselors. So many of our students suffer every day when they go home.”

She said she feels schools need to have a counselor on site.

“We need to have a school nurse in every single one of our schools, not just one school nurse per county. We need more clinics in our counties, and hopefully they can be within our school buildings,” Cutlip said. “We need to make sure teachers are paid a living wage.”

Cutlip said she also wants to make sure the state foster care system is examined.

“We have students who turn 18 years old, and they still might just be starting their junior or senior years in school,” she said. “Once they reach 18, they are thrown out of the foster care system.”

Cutlip said she is endorsed by all the labor unions, the teacher’s unions and school service personnel, as well as the UMWA and the AFL-CIO and several labor unions.

“I am going to be a candidate that stands up for those hardworking men and women,” she said. “I am going to fight for them every step of the way and will not turn my back on them no matter what their skin color, sexual orientation, their gender – it doesn’t matter because we are all West Virginians and we should be taking care of each other.”

Her website is www.robinforhouse.com and her Facebook page is Robin for House.

SUBA was formed in 1984 to promote the growth and prosperity of the business segment of Southern Upshur County. Members usually meet on the first Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Banks District Volunteer Fire Department/Rock Cave Civic Center, but meetings have been postponed recently due to the pandemic.

Membership in SUBA does not require owning a business, and yearly fees are $20.

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