In the Democratic Party primary for the West Virginia House of Delegates, District 36, the Gazette-Mail endorses incumbents Amanda Estep-Burton and Larry Rowe, and candidate James Elam. In the Republican Party primary, we endorse Chris Walters, Chris Pritt and John Luoni.
Walters has experience, serving in the state Senate from 2012 to 2016, and has always been a cool head with a penchant for clearly explaining goals and legislation without getting sucked into partisan politics.
He proposed a plan that, had it been passed, would have drastically improved broadband internet access across West Virginia, rather than continuing to throw money at a problem that never seems to get solved. The importance of that type of thinking is brought home in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which left many relying on broadband to work or continue school, and left many without access behind.
The issue also is relevant as it pertains to telehealth, as more rural parts of West Virginia see medical facilities close and experience more difficulty in accessing health care.
Pritt is seeking a seat in the 36th District for the second time, after falling 62 votes shy in 2018. His focus is primarily on adjusting the state tax structure to “level the playing field” for businesses in West Virginia. That means no special subsidies for any industry — or any increases on small businesses to give breaks to larger industries. He believes that can lead to a better business environment in the state, and a broader tax base.
Luoni has served as the Kanawha County Engineer for several years while also serving on the Regional Inter-Governmental Council Transportation Committee. It’s no surprise that he sees transportation infrastructure as one of the main problems facing the state. Improving roads would be one of his top priorities.
We’re not sure if his goal of getting rid of “all unnecessary business-related taxes and regulations that hamper business development and expansion” is attainable — or desirable — as some regulations are in place for good reason. However, his experience in county government and infrastructure makes him a good candidate.
In the Democratic primary, Larry L. Rowe has been doing a good job of representing Kanawha County in the House of Delegates on and off — and occasionally in the Senate — for years. Rowe is an experienced leader and a steady hand that is needed at the Legislature. While some delegates are more concerned with posturing on national issues, Rowe is typically found working with legislators of all political stripes on issues that actually affect the state.
Likewise, incumbent Amanda Estep-Burton had a promising first term, and she deserves another. She is a strong proponent of reasonable legislation to improve the state’s business climate — through things like broadband expansion — while also focusing on issues such as the foster care crisis and making West Virginia fairer for its own citizens and more attractive to outsiders. She is a proponent of adding protections for the LGBTQ community to the state’s anti-discrimination law, as is fellow candidate James Elam.
Elam, an openly gay former corrections officer, says he knows firsthand how a failure to adopt such policies over the years has hurt people like him in West Virginia, discouraging some from staying in the state and presenting a bad image to outside businesses that might otherwise look to invest here. He envisions a West Virginia where all are viewed with equality, leading to greater prosperity.
Like many of these other candidates, he also has plans to pursue legislation that will get West Virginia’s medical cannabis program back on track, something the state has been dragging its feet on for far too long.