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Thrasher wants to give voters a choice

WEIRTON — Woody Thrasher wants West Virginia voters to know they have an option when selecting their next governor in this year’s election.

Thrasher, a resident of Bridgeport, W.Va., is among a group of six Republicans facing off against Gov. Jim Justice as part of the state’s May 12 primary election.

“The governor continues to disappoint,” Thrasher said while visiting the Northern Panhandle Friday. “I don’t believe West Virginia is going in the right direction under his leadership.”

Thrasher, who previously served as commerce secretary in Justice’s administration, said he has been hearing frustrations from West Virginia residents while he has been campaigning, with people unhappy with the job Justice has been doing.

“West Virginia wants a governor who is going to be a role model,” Thrasher said, noting reports of Justice’s lack of involvement in state business, focus on personal ventures and continued work coaching a high school girls basketball team.

He wants voters to know there will be a choice on the ballot this year.

“The real goal going forward is to educate people that there is an alternative, and I have a plan,” Thrasher said.

Thrasher has unveiled a 12-point strategy for the future of West Virginia, which is available on his website, and much of it works into the area of economic development.

“We need to diversify West Virginia’s economy,” he said. “We should have done it decades ago.”

Among Thrasher’s planned initiatives for economic development are an increased focus on tourism, recruiting companies beyond those involved in resource extraction and improving the state’s infrastructure, including broadband access.

He said the same approach to job creation cannot be used throughout the state, noting the variety of resources and opportunities in West Virginia.

“Economic development is not a one-size fits all,” he said, explaining he prefers to look at West Virginia as divided into five regions. “Each one is unique and requires a different strategy.”

He noted while the southern part of the state is rich in rare earth minerals, central West Virginia has been focusing on aerospace, with automotive opportunities in the Parkersburg area and the Eastern Panhandle has been seeing growth from large corporations and its access to the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore metro areas.

The Northern Panhandle, meanwhile, has to focus on the opportunities from natural gas and related industries.

“I made my career, not by hitting home runs, but by hitting singles on a regular basis,” Thrasher said, adding, though, that the Northern Panhandle needs to “swing for the fence” when it comes to efforts in the petrochemical industry.

He feels those efforts have been slipping in the last couple of years because of a lack of guidance from Charleston.

Thrasher also touched on his ideas for fighting the opioid crisis, saying that while the governor has organized programs to provide jobs for those battling addiction, there still needs to be a focus on treatment options.

“These aren’t two month problems, they’re two years or more,” he said, adding West Virginia needs more treatment centers and programs to help in the recovery process.

In addition to Thrasher and Justice, Republican gubernatorial candidates include Shelby Jean Fitzhugh of Martinsburg; Michael Folk of Martinsburg; Brooke Lunsford of Salt Rock; Charles R. Sheedy Sr. of Cameron; and Doug Six of Burton.

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