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Kanawha Democrat Palumbo says he won't seek reelection to Senate

After nearly two decades of service under the Capitol dome, Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, said Tuesday he won’t run for reelection.

Palumbo, currently the minority whip, said that, after six years as a member of the House of Delegates and 12 as a senator, it’s time to open the door for new blood in the chamber.

Beyond the chronology, he said modern politics has lost a certain sense of camaraderie and cooperation, when it comes to problem solving on the state’s behalf.

“I think the whole nature of politics has deteriorated significantly since the time I started,” he said.

Looking back, he listed as accomplishments establishing a primary seat belt law in West Virginia that allows law enforcement to pull drivers over for failing to buckle up; privatizing the state worker’s compensation program, which he said greatly decreased costs for employers; and stopping a “religious freedom” law in 2016, which critics said would have allowed discrimination against LGBTQ people.

However, as a member of the minority caucus, he lamented what he called repeated instances when the Republican majority steamrolled Democrats and passed legislation that attracted no Democratic support.

Although he didn’t mention it by name, the Senate passed different versions of a conservative education overhaul package this year with no Democratic support, and invoked an arcane rule to circumvent a committee that lacked a supporting majority after two Republicans broke ranks.

He said he’s tired of fights on things like guns, instead of more salient issues, like the steady population drop in the state.

“Putting more guns in more places is not going to drive this state forward,” he said. “That seems to be one of the primary focuses of the Republicans is just to get guns as many places as we can. That’s not going to be what’s going to attract people to West Virginia, it’s just not.”

Palumbo said he plans to focus on his family and legal work as an attorney at the Bowles Rice law firm. He did not rule out returning to politics down the line.

In May, former House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, said he would run for Palumbo’s seat. Two Democrats — Eric Caruthers, of Belle, and Jon Hague, of Charleston — have also filed to run for the seat.

Reach Jake Zuckerman at

jake.zuckerman@wvgazettemail.com,

304-348-4814 or follow

@jake_zuckerman on Twitter.

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