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District office sparks reaction

October 17, 2000

District office sparks reaction



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Republican Gov. Cecil Underwood opened a district office for the Eastern Panhandle here Tuesday, amidst comments from his election opponent's campaign that the office was all related to the governor's re-election bid.

"He's been an election year Rip Van Winkle on the issues," said Mike Plante, consultant to the campaign of Democrat Bob Wise, opposing Underwood. "He's had four years to do this. Why did he wait until three weeks before the election to do it? It's pure politics."

"This followed up on a series of meetings that started in the Eastern Panhandle about a year ago," said Underwood's Press Secretary Dan Page. "The governor was convinced early on that better communication was needed between the Eastern Panhandle and Charleston."

The governor made the announcement Sept. 19, less than two months before the Nov. 7 election. The office formally opened Tuesday. Wise, who has had a congressional district office in Martinsburg, announced Oct. 9 he would have a district office here if he is elected governor.

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Page said Underwood "has spent a great deal of time in the Panhandle" during his administration and this is an extension of that, regardless of the timing.

"He doesn't stop being governor just because there's an election," Page said.

But Plante said that on issues like prescription drugs, school safety and economic development, Underwood did little until election year rolled around. Then he paid attention - as he paid attention to opening a district office just before the election.

"If Cecil Underwood is governor, maybe we ought to change the law so he has to run every year so we'd have some energy coming out of the Governor's Office," Plante said.

The district office will be staffed by former banker Vic Roberts of Gerrardstown. He will share a secretary with the state Department of Labor, which has an adjoining office.

"I'll act as an ombudsman for the citizens of the Eastern Panhandle in dealings with state government," Roberts said. "I'll also be an extension of the eyes and ears of the governor, keeping him informed of the needs of the tri-county area."

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