The Daily Mail editorial board will be meeting with candidates running in the 35th District House of Delegates race beginning at 11 a.m.
The 35th District is one of two Kanawha County districts formed following the breakup of the seven-member 30th District in last year’s redistricting. Voters in that district will elect four delegates to represent them in the Legislature for the next two years.
The race features Democrats Bonnie Brown, Barbara “Bobbie” Hatfield, Doug Skaff and Christopher Morris and Republicans Eric Nelson, Fred Joseph, Suzette Raines and J.B. McCuskey.
Brown, Hatfield, Skaff and Nelson currently serve in the House as representatives of the 30th District. Morris is a former state Tax Commissioner, Joseph is building manager with Upper Kanawha Valley Enterprise Community, Raines owns a public relations and marketing firm in Charleston and McCuskey is an energy litigation attorney at Steptoe & Johnson.
The live blog will start running below after 11 a.m.
And we’ve wrapped up our time…thanks for joining us and we’ll be back with the 36th District candidates tomorrow.
Skaff – said it’s a good thing and they need to continue looking at ways to fund it. “My job as a legislator would be to make sure it doesn’t go away.”
Hatfield said she’s for it and needs to be continued. Nelson said he’s for it and had a kid benefit from it. But said the cap doesn’t meet the increasing costs of school. “The cost of being able to give a kid a full ride is not there anymore.” Said maybe focus on getting needy full ride, and scale back for those with more funding available.
Raines, said the funding formula has been changed to where intended recipients are not getting it. GPA increases keep it out of reach for those who don’t test well, should look at benchmarks.
Skaff – ”I think we need to be creative with it.” Talked about locking in rates ahead of time to guarantee a level of funding for parents. Also goes back to the argument of keeping kids here and making sure they get something out of those investment dollars.
Any changes to Promise Scholarship going forward?
Raines – Said back in 2010 had a special session to implement a charter school system to get Race to the Top. “That thing was dead on arrival.” Gov. Manchin, as popular as he was and is, was not able to get that. Said there was no student focus at that time. “That is first and foremost, we have to have the students at the heart.”
Said road funding was also another area, like education where studies have been done, but there’s been no action.
Nelson said there were a number of recommendations, both long and short-term. “We need to move. We’ve just got too much bureaucracy in place that slows things down.”
Skaff – said “We’ve got to act on it…the bottom line is we need not only people, but we need resources to put these audit recommendations in place, or else we’ll get the same result.”
Hatfield said it was a 200-page audit, she hasn’t read. “I don’t know of anyone that’s read that audit.” Said only those on education committee had opportunity to review it, said she intends to read it.
Raines – “I think it’s time we finally take action. Let’s actually do something on those recommendations.”
Said audit came out in January, yet, no one’s acted on it yet.
“I think that these things are done because the population, they have questions, we are not happy with the education system. I think these audits are sometimes done to appease people. It’s time we take some action.”
Asking now about the education audit – are there any aspects of it you’d push to enact?
Nelson said the DHHR budget is huge – nearly $4billion – and state lawmakers don’t really have much control over the programs they oversee. Said they need to look at the policies of how they do bids and how they hire and fire. “Front and center – we need to address our policies, and we’ll do that.”
Raines said the people of WV are paying attention this and there are not happy with hearing about it. “We cannot allow these things to continually be at the forefront and not be addressed.”
“People are paying attention and they’re not going to let this slide – especially when we have budget shortfalls because they know we have the money, it just has to be spent right.”
Hatfield – the Department of Human Services needs divided – it’s too big of an agency. Said Medicaid needs pulled out.
Those people do a good job, they’re not paid enough, they’re understaffed.
“We need to break up that agency.
One person can’t run those departments – that will be a challenge of the future. It hink that chairman Perdue and others are going to try to open that up to see if we can move Medicaid out of the Dept of Human Services.
Skaff – said people are ultimately affected by departmental challenges. “We need to put the proper controls in place
Hatfield – “That department’s challenging.” Said she’s on the oversight committee looking into this. Said they were asking questions and working on it. “I think we ought to look at the departments to see if they’re doing their job.” She said the Legislature is aware of the problems and they’re looking forward to seeing how it plays out.
Talk of the recent news about DHHR with acting agency head’s travel expenses and three people placed on leave — asked for thoughts on that.
Hatfield – Said first and foremost she supports the Affordable Care Act because of good reforms and getting people insurance.
“It’s not going to be bad as everyone things.
We’re updated every month, we’re looking at it, it’s a challenge.
I know that things are going to have to be cut, but I want to see what he wants to cut.
We have to look and see what he wants to cut and maybe see if we can come up with some better ideas. It’s a challenge, but I think we can meet that challenge.”
Skaff – The reality is we have to make it happen.
“We need to do what it takes across the board so everybody is al together, we’re not going to pick winners and losers.”
“We have to do it…I don’t think there’s an alternative.”
Raines also talked about corruption and salaries paid to people who aren’t doing their jobs. Said that could free up revenue for Medicaid and teacher salaries. Said they need to look across the budget. Also said federal health care legislation will be very costly for the state.
Nelson – there’s always two sides of the equation, the revenue and the expense. Have benefited from increased revenue in recent years, but now faced with jumps in Medicaid expenses.
“There’s plenty of deserving people. But you go back 4 years ago when you used to get 4 dollars to 1 dollar federal to state
“Our revenue stream is not looking very productive with the attack on coal and falloffs”… our big streams of revenue are going down
“If you’re revenues are going down, you have to look at the other side for expense cuts. 7.5 across the board is very sound” but said every department needs looked at for other cuts.”
Now asking about Medicaid funding — which requires cuts in other areas of the budget. What do you think of cutting budget for Medicaid and do you have alternatives?
Skaff said need to focus on downstream businesses from natural gas cracker. Said there was potential opportunity, even if cracker went out of state.
Nelson said we need to revive the manufacturing base in the economy and focusing on downstream businesses will help.
Said it will take a total approach on economy: fixing courts and tax code, plus education.
Also talked about the need to focus on the education audit results and make sure money is being put to the right places, and making sure teachers are getting paid the most they can and that their salary funding is not going to other places like the bigger bureaucracy.
Raines – The whole package is: how do we improve the quality of life for people…and it starts with the education system.
Said we have to address the education system, because we’re not prepared to educate workers for jobs we’ll need to attract to improve economy.
Skaff: The bottom line is do you have to have the jobs first or the educated workforce?
Said he is working to create incentives, but also the tools to educate workforce.
“We have to do coinciding things.” Said tax credits won’t help if there isn’t an educated workforce.
“Our tax code, better education system sot that when people move here from out of state they know their kids will be educated and get the resources they need to get the jobs for tomorrow.”
What does WV need to do to get business?
Hatfield – said it also underscored the importance of education and getting people into skilled professions. “We have a good workforce here, we need to train them and we need innovative ideas.”
Said with fracking they have to hire people out of state because there’s a lack of training.
“We have a workforce that can do the job, we just need the training.”
Skaff – said we have an aging population, and we don’t have enough new people replacing them in the workforce. “I have a hard time finding employees.”
Nelson – pointed out there is high percentage of retirees on fixed incomes in the state, that will bring demographics down.
“But you know, there’s no one at this table that likes that (per capita ranking),” but said they need new business.
Are you satisfied with low ranking in per capita income? All said no, at first.
“I think we get elected because we represent the people well.
Represent a wide range of people – those with no jobs and not of priveledge.
“I like to think of Democrats of not only representing all people – all people – but those without a voice.
I think we have led WV, and I think that’s why we should stay in control.”
Skaff said it was just a representation issue: 3/4ths of state is registered Democrat, just a reflection of that.
But said WV Democrats are different than national ones.
“I think we’re more social conservative here; we care more about natural resources.”
Also pointed out success with working with republicans on things like redistricting.
Republicans bring a “fresh approach.”
“I think any one party should not be in control, absolute control for 80 years – that’s just unthinkable.”
Republicans haven’t been in control for 80 years.
“We keep ranking low on things…I think it’s time for a change.” Said they bring new ideas and a willingness to compromise.
Question: How do Republicans/Democrats differ on issues affecting this district?
Hatfield did say that there is still a bit of confusion out there among voters about the district. Also said some boundaries didn’t make sense. Said people who live three doors down from Delegate Danny Wells were angry they couldn’t vote for him.
”I’ve heard nothing but positive things from constituents about it.”
Said it does help them get closer to people, but said he will still work as hard as he did representing those in the 30th last time around.
“I think this district is much more homogeneous now than before.”
Supported breakup. More concentrated area will allow them to be closer to the people.
“I think that it’s time that people of St. Albans have someone that shares their zipcode and represents their area. It’s closer to the people having a smaller district.”
I think the smaller district will serve people better.
Said he’s actually spent less money this cycle. “I believe the House of Delegates should represent the people and the smaller district helps me see more people.”
Still a large populated area with like needs, “I think those 4 people can better represent this district.
Was against redistricting. Said the larger district helped women and minorities run because it gave them advantage against better funded candidates in smaller districts.
“I’ve had to spend more money than I’ve ever had to spend to at least stay competitive in this race.”
Money has been a big elephant in the room. For someone like me that could get out and work from the bottom up and not use a lot of funds has discouraged people to run.
I’m going to prove if you work hard to get elected and I’m counting on that.
Now question about how redistricting has changed things.
“I want to provide commonsense leadership…I’ve been in business for 25 plus years, both as an employee and executive manager and owner. When I ran two years ago, part of that was to bring that common sense management to government.”
Have had two kids through public school system – “We must provide a better environment for our kids. We need to have an environment that brings our young kids back and into our state.”
Two big things in last session: Redistricting showed working across the aisle to break up 30th district. Other was Marcellus issue, a big thing for the state. Said he had a background in oil and gas, and was able to provide input.
“The jobs not done. We must focus on creating jobs and improving our education system here.”
Worked with a variety of organizations
“I think we have so much potential in WV, and I think people are tired of hearing we’re 49th or 50th in this. I want to be a legislator, not a naysayer.
“I’ll be the type of legislator that will give people the opportunity to present their side. Even if I philosophically disagree with them, I’m willing to hear their side.
Thinks legislature and governors have done good job of bringing in new businesses with tax credit opportunities. “But I think after we do that time and time again, maybe we need to take a look at this and see if those who are still in business, is it fair for someone else to still pay business and inventory tax?
“How unfair is it to people who have set up here for 30 years and would love to have those privileges as well
“I see us applying band-aid fixes.” Need broad overhaul.
Need to look at education system, which has gone unaddressed and is not yielding positive results.
While in Legislature, really fought “on keeping our best in brightest here. I really feel we have a brain drain in this state, and I’ve fought to keep those people here.” Worked on tax incentive programs last year to encourage people to stay post-graduation.
Also talked about natural resources – need to diversify but also maintain existing resources.
Nat gas is a gold rush and billion dollar opportunity and Legislature needs to work to capitalize on that.
“The main reason for running was to try to improve the healthcare for employees and children of WV.” (Both physical and mental health.)
Also why: I wanted to push WV forward.
Was a nurse prior, fortunate to get appointed to good committee in Legislature, vice-chair now of Health and Human Resources. “I learned as a young delegate to be a visionary.”
Also over the years looked at reforming education, taxes in a comprehensive way. Also positioned in high schools to encourage people to go to college or vocational school.
“I think we’ve moved WV forward. That’s not to say we don’t have more work to do, but all these ideas we’ve come up with are being worked with.
“I have experience to lean and push WV forward.”
Starting out with intros and what got them into the race.
Sounds like this is all who will be here, so we’re going to go ahead and begin.
We’re waiting on word from the front desk to see if any other candidates are downstairs before beginning.
I hit mute on the audio for the live stream for a minute, as you probably don’t want to hear me, Don Surber and Tom Hindman discuss NFL football.
Preparing to get under way. Brown and Morris had said ahead of time they would not be able to attend today’s meeting. Hadn’t heard from McCuskey as of this morning. Fred Joseph had said he would attend, though he’s not here yet.
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