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Three Democrats seek West Virginia 1st District delegate seats

CHARLESTON — Three Democratic candidates are vying in the June 9 primary election for two seats in the state House of Delegates representing the 1st Delegate District, which includes Hancock County and part of Brooke County.

They are: Ronnie D. Jones of Weirton, Roger “Buddy” Stewart Jr. of New Cumberland and Jack Wood of Weirton.

The two primary winners will face Republican incumbent Pat McGeehan of Chester and Republican challenger Mark Zatezalo of Weirton in the fall general election. Democratic incumbent Randy Swartzmiller of Chester, whose term expires this year, is running for a seat in the state Senate.

A member of the Weirton Area Water Board and the city’s park and recreation board, Jones served in the House of Delegates from 2010 to 2014, vice chairing committees on pensions and retirement and serving on committees on natural resources and veterans affairs and homeland security, among others.

He served on Weirton Council from 2007 to 2014 and on the city’s planning commission.

Jones said if elected, he would work with others to address a state budget shortfall estimated to be anywhere from millions to billions of dollars.

He said, “We cannot continue to cut program budgets and use the rainy day fund. No one legislator can fix the budget alone. I will work with all Delegates, regardless of party affiliation, to address the budget shortfall. I believe the budget should be addressed as early as possible during the legislative session.”

An opponent of the state’s right-to-work law, Jones said if elected, he would sponsor and support legislation that would help ensure good income for working class families and appropriate compensation for current and retired teachers while encouraging businesses to open in the state.

An assistant Hancock County prosecuting attorney since 2013, Wood served previously for the 1st Judicial Circuit Public Defenders Corp. for seven years, handling cases in Hancock, Brooke and Ohio counties and serving as chief public defender for two years, which involved managing the organization’s Wheeling office and budget.

Wood said through that experience, he became quite familiar with “the application and interpretation of the laws of West Virginia and the legislative process as laws change or are created.”

He said if elected, he would push for much-needed improvements to roads, saying, “Pothole season seems to get longer each year and deteriorated roads become more common every year without much correction taking place.”

Wood said he would support fair pay and worker safety, saying, “The strength of unions has been systematically diluted and worker wages and safety will suffer if this trend isn’t stopped.”

Stewart said he has worked in various fields, from gas station attendant to bartender, and has been employed as a Hancock County school bus driver since 2013.

He has volunteered for the Hancock County Oldtime Fair, of which he was president; the Tomlinson Run State Park Foundation, a fundraising group for the park; the New Manchester Volunteer Fire Department, Hancock County Sheriff’s Reserves and Hancock County Project Lifesaver, a nonprofit group that provides electronic tracking equipment to families with people who are prone to wander because of autism or other conditions.

Stewart said if elected, he would push for more assistance to those with special needs, more support for volunteer fire departments, including measures to recruit and retain new volunteers; and funding and other means to strengthen public schools and support public employees.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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