In the upcoming primary election for Ward 19 of the Charleston City Council, a Republican political consultant is running against an attorney and former West Virginia University mascot.
Roman Stauffer will run against Brady Campbell in the Republican primary for the ward; attorneys Michelle Storage and Mychal Schulz are running in Democratic primary election for the same ward.
Stauffer, 35, is a Princeton native and Concord University graduate who moved to Charleston 15 years ago.
He is the executive director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse and the owner of Capitol Strategies, a political advising firm whose clients include Senate candidate Don Blankenship.
Another person in his office handles Blankenship’s account, Stauffer said, but that he doesn’t apologize for clients that use his business.
Stauffer said he’s running for council to make the city a better place for people to raise a family, start a business or enjoy retirement.
He said he would oppose the needle-exchange program at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department if he were on council, saying he wants to keep people safe from “criminal tourists” who come to the city for unlimited needles and services. He added that he supports the program at West Virginia Health Right.
Stauffer said Charleston’s most pressing need is to attract jobs and job creators to the city. He said he’d like to see the city focus on cutting burdensome regulations for businesses and developing a “code team” to help people starting or expanding businesses to answer questions and clarify regulations for them.
Stauffer said the city should cut the program that has distributed trash bags to residents for more than 40 years. He said trash bags are something residents should be able to provide for themselves.
Campbell, 33, is a sales executive at an insurance company. A George Washington High School graduate, Campbell was the WVU Mountaineer mascot from 2006-2008.
Campbell previously worked as a mental hygiene commissioner for the state Supreme Court and is a guardian ad litem, an attorney who represents children in court proceedings.
He said he’d like Charleston to be a place he and his wife can someday raise children and a place those children will want to stay.
Campbell said if the needle exchange program at the health department restarts, he wants it to move out of the downtown business district and away from the Civic Center.
He said he wouldn’t support tax or fee increases to balance the city’s budget. He said the city could save money by having fewer council members or modernizing its trash collection with trucks that require fewer workers.
Campbell said the city could adjust the trash bag distribution program so that it only pays for the bags that residents use.
He said the most pressing issue for the city is a loss of revenue and businesses. He said he wants to help prepare Charleston for when businesses come to the city by cleaning up the downtown and continuing events like the Rod Run and Doo Wop.
Campbell said he owns property in the city and has been a victim of vandalism, which motivates him to fix the problems the city has.
Michelle Storage, 34, originally of Matewan, is an insurance defense attorney who has lived in Charleston since she graduated law school in 2011.
Storage said she decided to run for council after hearing that the city planned to pursue legislation that would require panhandlers to obtain a permit. The bill has been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia and is stalled, its lead sponsor said last week.
Storage said she wanted to make sure the city strikes a balance between protecting businesses and making sure vulnerable people have their needs met.
Storage said she wants to help the city be a place where young professionals want to grow their careers and raise families.
She said getting rid of the needle exchange program would do harm because it has been shown to prevent the spread of disease. She said the health department has done a good job with harm reduction but the city and the health department need to address issues like dirty needles that have come up as a result.
“I think an open dialogue is what is needed and that’s what’s getting in the way of progressing,” she said.
Storage said she would support continuing the trash bag program if it’s not having an adverse effect on the city’s budget.
Storage’s opponent in the primary is Mychal Schulz, 53, a Wisconsin native and an attorney at Babst Calland. He’s lived in Charleston for 26 years.
Schulz said he’s running because the election will bring change to the city and he wants to be a part of it.
Schulz said the most important issue facing the city is a need for jobs, which is related to population loss and ultimately homelessness and the opioid epidemic.
While the business environment is mostly driven at the state level, Schulz said, there are things like cutting down on regulations that the city can do to promote business growth.
Schulz said he supports the health department reopening the needle exchange with some changes. For instance the program should be a one-for-one needle exchange and it should not allow patients to pick up needles for other patients. He said he doesn’t support requiring patients to show identification.
Schulz said he was disappointed that the city used money from the EDGE project with the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority to balance the budget. He said the project would have helped to attract young professionals to the city. As far as balancing the budget for next year, Schulz said all options are on the table.
Schulz said he thinks the city should discontinue the program that distributes trash bags to residents because it’s not an efficient use of money.
Schulz is married with two daughters and a stepson. He’s a broadcaster for the University of Charleston men’s and women’s basketball team, a tennis referee and a board member of Leadership West Virginia, he said.