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Blackmer takes another shot at challenging Manuel for 58th House of Delegates seat

October 14, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Fred Blackmer isn't holding back any punches in the race for West Virginia's 58th House of Delegates seat.

Blackmer, a home remodeling businessman who tried unsuccessfully two years ago to unseat the incumbent, Del. Dale Manuel, criticizes the state for failing to address issues such as regulation of all-terrain vehicles, state debt, reliance on gambling for state revenues and huge deficits in the Public Employees Insurance Agency.

Blackmer said Manuel has been in office for 14 years and only now is Manuel saying there is a problem with Public Employees Insurance Agency.

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"He's part of the problem, not part of the solution," the Republican candidate said.

Blackmer said 58th district constituents need to decide "whether they are satisfied with what they have or not. It's time for new efforts and new direction. What we're doing isn't working," Blackmer said.

Voters will go to the polls on Nov. 5.

Manuel, D-Jefferson, defended his record, saying the Public Employees Insurance Agency deficit has been difficult to deal with because the numbers are constantly changing.

The deficit has been aggravated by spiraling health-care costs, and lawmakers have worked to reduce those costs by instituting smoking-cessation programs and other proactive health programs for state employees, Manuel said.

"I believe we've been pretty responsible," said Manuel, who is seeking his eighth two-year term in the election.

Manuel, 54, of 104 Porter Way, Charles Town, said regulation of all-terrain vehicles is a concern to him, as well.

Manuel said he has been a leading voice for regulation of all-terrain vehicles in the Legislature, but there has been opposition. However, he believes people who oppose the regulations are coming closer toward an agreement on the issue.

There is little regulation over all-terrain vehicles, and the issue is starting to heat up since there has been a string of ATV-related deaths recently, including one earlier this month in Berkeley County, Manuel said.

Blackmer said he wants to go to Charleston, W.Va., to help Jefferson County officials get the tools they need to manage population growth.

Blackmer, 54, of P.O. Box 1099, Harpers Ferry, W.Va., said he is frustrated that counties do not have the same ability as cities to implement business and occupation taxes or do their own road planning.

Eastern Panhandle counties are prohibited from doing any long-range road planning to prepare for population growth because roads outside cities are controlled by the state Department of Highways, Blackmer said.

"The counties have been removed even from the consultation process," Blackmer said.

Manuel said he wants to return to Charleston to push for a second high school in Jefferson County and make sure "we try to get every dime we can from the School Building Authority for that."

The Jefferson County Board of Education is proposing to build a second high school and renovate Jefferson High School at a cost of $37.5 million. Board members say the more money that can be raised for the project through state sources and local impact fees, the less board members will have to rely on proposed tax increases to pay for the project.

Manuel said he wants to keep pushing for the widening of W.Va. 9 to four lanes between Charles Town and Martinsburg, W.Va., and address medical malpractice tort reform issues. As the vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Manuel said he is in a good position to address proposed legislation that could affect the Eastern Panhandle.

Manuel said he has also developed a reputation as serving the needs of his constituents and he will continue that if re-elected to his seat, which pays $15,000 a year.

The 58th House district covers areas such as Shannondale, Eastland, Charles Town, Ranson, Cloverdale, Avon Bend and parts of Hostler Road.

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