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Four looking to win party nod in race for 54th House seat

May 08, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

Two Democrats will vie for their party's nomination and two Republicans will seek their party's nod in the race for the 54th House of Delegates seat in Tuesday's primary election.

The primary winners from the two parties will face each other in the Nov. 5 general election.

Delegates serve two-year terms and earn $15,000.

The 54th Delegate seat, which covers Martinsburg and some outlying areas, currently is held by Del. Vicki Douglas, D-Berkeley, who is not seeking re-election.

Primary candidates include:

n Dale Buck, Democrat, said he wants to be a member of the Legislature to reconcile the differences between the growing Eastern Panhandle and "the politics of southern West Virginia, which is not (growing)."

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Although Buck said the "devil is in the details" on how to accomplish that, he said it is important that the Panhandle get the money it deserves to prepare the area for growth.

Because economic development and public education go "hand-in-glove," it is important that local schools get money they need for new school construction and that teachers get raises to discourage them from going to neighboring states for better pay, said Buck, 49, of 201 N. Mary St., Hedgesville.

"We're not in a position to rest. We need to keep working," said Buck, a Martinsburg attorney who served on the Hedgesville Town Council for 12 years.

n Kimber White, 42, a Democrat, said being a small business owner has allowed him to see pitfalls in the state's tax system and how small business is treated unfairly. White said there are corporations that run up hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of workers' compensation debts with the state and get light-handed treatment.

Yet a small business will get pressured over $300 in workers' compensation payments, White said.

White said he is concerned about tax breaks being given to big companies with no guarantees they will stay here.

"Special-interest groups run our state and that's sad," said White, co-owner of the Boomtown Restaurant at 522 W. King St.

Small businesses face inequities between federal and state taxes, he said. Business owners can depreciate the value of equipment under federal tax rules after so many years but state tax laws do not allow it, said White, who has never held elected office.

"It's there until you throw it out the door," said White.

n Walter Edwin Duke, a Republican, said he is running because he is dissatisfied with the way state government is run, particularly in how it uses its resources.

One example locally was the construction of the first Eastern Regional Jail along W.Va. 9 west of Martinsburg, said Duke, 54, of 112 Tavern Road, Martinsburg.

Within 10 years, the 120-bed lock-up was considered obsolete and was replaced with a $17 million jail.

"That's not good planning or good use of mine and everyone else's tax dollars," said Duke, who teaches psychology, American history and other subjects at Hedgesville High School.

Duke said big corporations are getting away without paying huge workers' compensation debts and there are inequalities in the state's tax system.

In one year, there was a $43 million increase in personal property taxes and a $43 million decrease in personal property taxes for big businesses, said Duke, who has never held pubic office.

n Robert L. Lowe II, a Republican, said he believes he can provide leadership in Charleston for all Berkeley County residents.

The Eastern Panhandle is one of the fastest growing areas of the state and provides the state with a steady source of tax revenue, said Lowe, 52, of 1406 Loweland Drive, Martinsburg. But the Panhandle does not get a fair share of that revenue in return, which affects the area's ability to pay for the facilities needed because of growth, said Lowe, who has never held public office.

"They seem to be blind about being fair and equitable," said Lowe, a former U.S. Treasury agent who ran unsuccessfully for Berkeley County assessor two years ago.

Lowe said the state's tax system is archaic and complex, and he believes lawmakers should consider the idea of a flat tax, where taxpayers would simply be charged a percentage of their annual income for taxes.

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