The Gazette-Mail is endorsing Joshua Higginbotham in the Republican primary for state Senate District 8, and incumbent Tom Takubo for the GOP primary in District 17.
In the House of Delegates, now looking much different through redistricting that created 100 single-member districts, we are endorsing incumbent Kayla Young for the Democratic Party primary in District 65 and Republican incumbent Larry Pack for the Republican primary; and incumbent Dianna Graves for the Republican primary in District 59.
As it pertains to the Senate, Democrat incumbent Richard Lindsay is unopposed in the District 8 primary. The Republican side has four candidates, and has gotten very messy between Higginbotham, a veteran member of the House of Delegates, and political neophyte Andrea Garrett Kiessling, who is the clear favorite of the party’s far-right leaders, such as Sen. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam. Also in the race is Democrat-turned-Republican Mark Hunt, another seasoned lawmaker who wouldn’t be a bad choice. The field is rounded out by Mark Mitchem, who has run a quiet campaign.
Higginbotham appeared to be the party favorite as the race got underway, but Kiessling’s entry shows a schism in the state Republican Party, which holds a supermajority in the House and Senate.
Higginbotham is openly gay, and, during the 2021 legislative session, championed the Fairness Act to provide equal protection from discrimination for the LGBTQ community. Many Republicans, including Gov. Jim Justice, said they would support the bill during the 2020 election. That support mostly evaporated afterward.
Now, after bravely spearheading an issue he believed in, Higginbotham is the subject of all kinds of rancorous attacks from further right, with Tarr sharing on Facebook an ad that falsely claims Higginbotham wants to allow men in girl’s bathrooms, locker rooms and showers. This is bottom-feeding stuff that is not only far from factual but also a good deal away from any real issues that affect West Virginians.
Higginbotham has experience, is grounded in more traditional conservatism and is a much better choice than anyone, willing or no, propped up by those who would push lunatic-fringe social issues.
In District 17, again, it’s about experience. Takubo has been a valued voice of reason from the GOP in the Senate and, as a physician, has protected the Legislature from some of its more destructive impulses, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. He deserves the Republican nod in the primary. The winner between Takubo and Terry “T.J.” Burns will face Democrat Samuel “Sam” Wood, who is unopposed in his primary, in the November general election.
District 56 in the House of Delegates is the only local race with a contested primary on both sides. Pack just finished his first term in the House, and deserves a shot at another. On the Democrat side, Young also is coming off her first term. Her opponent, Devin Casey, is a good candidate. Young has shown a developing knack for getting things rolling while in the minority party and not caring who gets the credit for it, as long as it’s good legislation. That’s a skill the Legislature badly needs.
The Republican primary in the 59th District features two strong candidates.
Andy Shamblin, of Nitro, is a fierce advocate of public education, something his party has been undermining in the Legislature over the past several sessions. Incumbent Graves also has voiced support for public schools and teachers, but also voted for bills diverting public funding to ventures like charter schools. Graves was able to pass legislation reestablishing the state’s film tax credit, something her party needlessly eliminated in 2018. Graves finally seems to be gaining some footing as a centrist legislator.
The Gazette-Mail also endorses John Luoni in the Republican primary for District 54 in the House, and Walter Hall in the GOP primary for District 58.