The Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce presented a W V House of Delegates forum hosted by the Greenbrier Valley Theatre Tuesday evening, with Radio WRON’s Mike Kidd moderating the event. The five contenders for the two seats in the 42nd District, which includes portions of Greenbrier, Monroe and Summers counties, were incumbants Ray Canterbury and George “Boogie” Ambler, and three challengers, Dr. Coy Flowers, Courtney Jesser and Richard Dulee.
Questions for the candidates were sent in and prepared prior to the event, which was heard live on radio WRON.
Moderator Mike Kidd asked all contenders the same questions, beginning with, “What is your plan to assure the public that water in West Virginia is safe?”All agreed that water sources need to be protected. The bill (373) signed by Governor Tomblin has loopholes in it but as Canterbury said the bill goes a long way in addressing storage of chemicals in tanks along the riverbanks. The candidates also agreed that if tracking wastes are to be placed in landfills it must be put in separate cells, and certainly not at all in a karst landscape.
George Ambler, having held a first time two-year term in the House and now looking to be reelected, and serves on the education and agricultural committees in the house, stated that Greenbrier County is not an industrial area like Kanawha County but is an agricultural area and so is less susceptible to chemical leaks.
The second question dealt with the Affordable Care Act and how West Virginians might respond. The forum panel split three to two with the incumbents stating that funding the program may eventually become a problem. Ray Canterbury enlarging on the topic, saying, as a delegate who has served in the House for several years and is a senior member of the most powerful and influential Finance Committee, he is aware more than most of the budget cuts coming in the next few years, “This is a federal issue. The young people are not signing up, leaving the elderly who need medical care without funding support.”
The challengers all agreed there is a need for affordable insurance in West Virginia. They spoke to the potential benefits of lower premiums and fuller insurance coverage.
Coy Flowers stated that as a physician he sees patients all the time who cannot afford health care because they are not insured. Courtney Jesser said that seniors and children are the main users of Medicaid. ACA has shown to provide lower premiums and fuller coverage. Richard Dulee was initially negative toward ObamaCare especially on a federal level, but he said he recognizes that 80,000 West Virginians are receiving benefits from theACA.
Ray Canterbury believes this is a federal issue and that funding will be a problem the young are not signing up and yet the elderly need it so funding will eventually be a problem.
Question #3: “How will you change the business climate in Greenbrier County while protecting the environment?” Several suggestions were offered including wind power, resort developments and tax incentives for micro-small businesses.
Courtney Jesser, a mother of three with a BMA in business, suggested bringing in nonhazardous businesses
like Amazon whose product does not have an affect on the environment that could serve to build a strong business climate in the area. Her background includes work in the hospitality sector. She recognizes how tourism has helped the economy for West Virginia.
Richard Dulee, the self-proclaimed “Education Candidate,” said that Greenbrier County is an agriculturebased area and a destination for the retirement community. Taken together with tourism, the three make a strong case for strengthening our economy.
Question #4: What is your take on legalizing marijuana in West Virginia? Surprisingly, all ofthe candidates saw reasons to legalize medical marijuana in West Virginia. Ambler, speaking as an educator, thought strict regulations might be an essential part of the language for such a bill. Dulee also urged inserting language in a medical marijuana bill requiring relooking at the affect of the bill after it’s enactment to see how well it worked out. He added that West Virginia has the largest veteran population in the US and that twenty percent of them are self-medicating themselves with marijuana. “We need to take our vets seriously. If it works, do it,” he said.
Question five pertained to their stand on taxation on military benefits. Everyone agreed veterans need protection and respect.
The question of same-sex marriage brought out some differing views. Coy Flowers stated he hoped someday to be legally married with his partner in West Virginia. He said he believed “the main point is respect-despite polar differences. I’m a realist, I understand where we are, but change is inevitable.”
George Ambler expressed concern for same-sex marriage constitutionality. He said as a Methodist he was taught not to discriminate, but he would wait to hear what the courts say on the matter. Ray Canterbury said he was a traditionalist. If we really believe in liberty, he said, then even strong opposition against a popular stance need also to be heard.
In closing the forum. Mike Kidd, looking around the auditorium at GVT, said, “Decisions are made by less than 25 percent of the population.” He urged all to get out and vote.