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The West Virginia Senate’s majority leader is looking to fend off a challenger while a Democratic hopeful will face no opposition on the ballot in the primary races for state Senate District 17.

Majority Leader Tom Takubo, 50, of South Charleston, a pulmonary and critical care physician, will face Terry “TJ” Burns, 61, of Campbells Creek, a retired state Division of Highways worker.

Takubo, who did not respond to requests for comment, is seeking a third four-year term in the Senate following a regular legislative session in which nine bills he led sponsorship of became law. Those measures included lifting state restrictions on nuclear power plant construction and offering a tax credit for employers who provide or sponsor child care facilities.

Running unopposed on the Democratic ballot is Samuel “Sam” Wood of Charleston, a professional civil engineer.

Making his first bid for state public office, Burns criticized the state’s foster care system, saying it has “way too much red tape” and alluding to an estimate that there are at least 6,000 children in the state’s system at any given time.

Burns said he believes the state should have one legal division to address legal issues stemming from not only foster care but other services, rather than state agencies each having their own legal units.

Burns said the Legislature has asserted too much control over education and is wary of the state’s growing embrace of charter schools. The Legislature legalized charter schools in 2019 and the state’s first fully online charter schools last year.

“I don’t like the idea of charter schools as much,” Burns said. “I don’t know why the Legislature jumped on that bandwagon.”

Burns said he would likely oppose further lowering of severance tax for extracting natural resources like coal and natural gas.

“You have to have revenue,” Burns said. “I think the people ought to be getting something out of those natural resources.”

Members of the West Virginia Public Service Commission should be elected rather than appointed by the governor as they are now, Burns said, predicting that making commission members elected officials would encourage them to approve utility rate increases less frequently.

District 17 has remained largely the same after redistricting following the 2020 census and includes most of Kanawha County.

The primary is May 10. Early voting began April 27.

Mike Tony covers energy and the environment. He can be reached at 304-348-1236 or mtony@hdmediallc.com. Follow @Mike__Tony on Twitter.

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