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Overington, Rose compete for delegate seat

October 21, 1998|By DON AINES

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - For the third time in six years, voters in West Virginia's 54th District will see the same two names on the ballot on Nov. 3.

Del. John Overington, the Republican incumbent since 1984, is once again facing Martinsburg attorney Laura Rose, who was the Democratic nominee in 1994 and 1996.

Overington said last week that he tries to get his constituents involved in the legislative process. Rose said the constituents don't get enough for their tax dollars.

"I try to bring people into the legislative process with town meetings, constituent services and citizen polls ... and that helps define my position on the issues," Overington said.

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As an example, he said Gov. Cecil Underwood has introduced torte reform legislation. Overington, 53, said he conducted a poll of constituents that showed overwhelming support for laws to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits.

He said the poll showed, among other things, that 97 percent of those responding favored banning lawsuits by people injured while they were committing a crime and 90 percent agreed that lawsuits contributed to higher state taxes.

"I can only be as good as the people I represent and the input they give me," he said of the polls.

Rose, 40, said the northern part of Berkeley County she seeks to represent is rapidly growing and in need of more sewer, water and other utility services. She said the district needs a high school, senior center and other improvements.

"We need a delegate who's going to be able to deliver the services we need ... We need cooperation instead of conflict in Charleston (W.Va.), which has plagued the 54th for years," Rose said.

"We pay the same taxes as everyone else in Berkeley County, but we don't get the same services," Rose said.

Overington said he supports the Governor's Commission on Tax Fairness and said state taxes are too complicated and unfair to working families. "Working men and women who earn the money are the best qualified to spend it," he said.

"I've pledged not to increase taxes and I've been a strong taxpayer advocate," he said.

Overington said West Virginians Against Government Waste has rated him highest among legislators in the eastern part of the state for six years, with a 94 percent rating this year.

Rose said the district has not received the benefits of the state lottery because Overington failed to make requests through the Legislature. Lottery proceeds can be allocated for education, senior citizen and tourism projects, according to Rose.

"Our delegate made not one request for education or seniors" in the 1998 budget, she said. Rose said Overington did join in requesting funding for two tourism projects in Martinsburg, outside the district.

"If you don't make a request, you're not going to get it," she said of the lottery funds.

Rose said she favors a zero-tolerance policy for violence and drugs in schools, more services for senior citizens and a state patients' "Bill of Rights."

"Health-care decisions should be made by the doctor and patient and not by the insurance companies," she said.

Overington said he's concerned about safety in schools and supports "coming down hard on juvenile criminal behavior, especially for violent and repeat offenders."

He also supports capital punishment.

With few exceptions, Overington said West Virginia does not allow voter initiatives and referendums, something he would like to see changed. "It's a method where the public has more input on the process," he said.

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