NEW CUMBERLAND - Area voters had the chance to hear from about a dozen candidates in the upcoming West Virginia primary as part of an event held Thursday by the Hancock County Democratic Executive Committee.
The informal event, which was attended by a handful of residents, allowed candidates to speak directly with the voters, discussing their lives, careers and plans for office if elected.
Those candidates in attendance, all Democrats, included incumbent Hancock County Commissioner Jeff Davis; incumbent county Prosecutor Jim Davis, who is running unopposed; candidate for House of Delegates Marilyn Boyd; sheriff candidate Ken Thorn; Del. Ronnie Jones; Del. Randy Swartzmiller; sheriff candidate Ralph Fletcher; Letitia "Tish" Chafin, who is running for the state Supreme Court of Appeals; county Magistrate Scott Hicks; magistrate candidate Curt Parkins; and county Magistrate Michael Powell.
LISTENING TO THE CANDIDATES — Residents listened as some of the candidates discussed their platforms during an event in New Cumberland Thursday. The candidate forum was organized by the Hancock County Democratic Executive Committee. -- Craig Howell
Sheriff candidate Ted Dragisich, who was unable to attend because of a prior commitment, was represented by his brother, Eli Dragisich.
Commissioner Jeff Davis, the only Democrat running for the seat, stated the county has been fortunate to be in good financial shape the last several years, explaining while lottery revenues have dropped by 25 percent, the county has been finding ways to save and keep services in operation.
"The last thing we ever want to do is cut services," he said.
Davis will face Republican Mark Tetrault in the general election in November.
Chafin, a Weirton native living in Charleston, stressed the importance of the election for state Supreme Court, noting the lengths of the terms and the value of the work performed by the justices.
Fletcher took a few moments to discuss his experience, noting his years in the Weirton Police Department, including four as police chief, and his time as a special investigator for the county prosecutor's office.
"I've never left law enforcement," Fletcher said.
Thorn, too, noted his experience in the field of law enforcement, which includes 23 years with the Chester Police Department, the last 17 as its chief.
"I enjoy it. I enjoy doing my job," Thorn said. "My specialty is people."
Speaking on his brother's behalf, Eli Dragisich stated while other candidates do have law enforcement experience, Ted Dragisich has experience as Hancock County's sheriff, having previously held the post.
"I believe he is the best choice to be sheriff of Hancock County," he said.
Of the magistrate candidates, Parkins noted his 19 years of service as a Hancock County deputy and 15 years as the Chester municipal judge. He also is a business owner, operating the Gun Room, a sporting goods store in Chester.
Hicks cited his 26 years with the Weirton Police Department, which included four years as chief, and his service as county magistrate since February 1998.
"We're the front line of the judiciary," Hicks said, noting the county magistrate court has heard more than 24,000 criminal cases in the last 14 years.
Powell, who also has been magistrate since 1998, spent 22 years with the Weirton Police Department. He promised to be fair and balanced in making his decisions, explaining judges have a code they have to follow in their rulings.
"The system is only as good as the people within the system," Powell said.
All three candidates for the House of Delegates also spoke. The two receiving the most votes in the election will represent the county in Charleston next year.
Boyd, a 33-year employee of Homer Laughlin China, said she wants to make sure the people's voices are heard.
"I just want to represent the working families of Hancock County," Boyd said.
She also touched on drug issues in the area.
Swartzmiller, who has held the office for 12 years, said he always tries to work with everyone when trying to get legislation passed and looking out for the interests of his constituents.
"Nurturing relationships and getting to know people is important to getting things done," he said. "I've always given everybody a seat at the table. I don't turn anybody away."
Jones, who is seeking his second term in the House, also is a Weirton City councilman and a member of several boards. He said he is always willing to listen.
"My door is always open," Jones said.
Some residents questioned the incumbent delegates on what efforts they have made to bring new utility companies to West Virginia.
Swartzmiller said part of the problem is with the federal government.
"It's difficult for new companies to open anywhere when the federal EPA is constantly putting out new regulations," he said.
The delegates also were questioned on some of the campaign contributions they had received this year.
Hancock County Prosecutor Jim Davis, who is running unopposed this year, took a few moments to discuss the drug problem in the area and the efforts to combat it. He said he estimates 85 to 90 percent of crimes in the area are related to drugs in some way.
He said some efforts have been made through the local drug court programs and the law enforcement agencies, but they cannot let up on those efforts.
"We need to have coordination between the departments," he said.
Davis also noted a program being held Wednesday at the Millsop Community Center in Weirton to discuss drug issues.