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New 52nd District seat up for grabs

Two political newcomers are vying to represent the newly created district, which covers part of Berkeley County.

Two political newcomers are vying to represent the newly created district, which covers part of Berkeley County.

October 18, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - There are few similarities between the two men seeking the 52nd District House of Delegates seat - Republican Craig Blair, 43, and Democrat Craig Shibley, 34.

Both live in Hedgesville, W.Va, and they each own a business, but that is where the parallels end.

The 52nd District is a new district that covers parts of Berkeley County, including Marlowe, Falling Waters and Gerrardstown, and areas along U.S. 522 in Morgan County, but not Berkeley Springs.

Blair, a lifelong area resident, graduated from Hedgesville High School and James Rumsey Technical Institute. He has owned Sunset Water Services since 1989.

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Shibley, who moved to the area about three years ago, earned a bachelor's degree from Bates College in Maine and a master's degree from Boston University. He owns a production company, Tega Media.

Shibley said one of his main concerns is addressing the state's projected budget shortfall of more than $200 million.

To do that, Shibley said he hopes to look at ways to reduce government spending and examine tax issues. Shibley said he supports an increased tax on cigarettes - up to $1 per pack - and would listen to proposals concerning a higher tax on alcohol.

He also said the state should be diligent in its property tax collection policy.

Shibley described himself as pro-business - he wants to increase the state's venture capital fund and favors Amendment 1, an economic development tool.

As far as education, Shibley said he wants to examine the merit-based PROMISE Scholarship program, in which students who maintain a 3.0 grade-point average receive a scholarship for tuition to in-state colleges and universities. Too many PROMISE recipients are students who would have attended college regardless, and whose parents can afford tuition, Shibley said, citing a study done by Harvard University.

"What kind of promise are we truly fulfilling?" he said.

He supports regional pay differentials for teachers and others who receive significantly lower salaries than their counterparts in neighboring Maryland and Virginia.

If elected, Shibley said he hopes to form what he terms the Eastern Panhandle Political Caucus, in which local Democrats and Republicans would meet before the legislative session begins, to work on a list of priorities for the area.

Blair said he opposes any new gun control laws; favors capital punishment, especially for those convicted of murder; and hopes to stop telemarketers.

Blair favors completing the W.Va. 9 project and wants to regulate all-terrain vehicles. He said ATV riders should be licensed and required to wear a helmet.

Regarding the medical malpractice crisis, Blair described the problem as a triangle, involving doctors, lawyers and insurance agencies. The Legislature should be able to examine insurance companies' books, he said. People should know whether malpractice premiums are high because of too many lawsuits or because the companies made poor investments, he said.

As far as the projected $200 million budget shortfall, Blair said he would approach that as a businessman. Nobody in state government should be getting rich, but the state should be a good place to live, he said.

Blair said the shortfall would worsen if 4-year-olds start attending school, an idea being discussed. Blair called that an expensive option proposed to keep teachers employed in parts of the state where student enrollment is declining.

Rather than sending 4-year-olds to school, Blair said teachers in other parts of the state should be offered a transfer here - where more students enroll every year. Otherwise, he said, it may be necessary to reduce school staffs in other areas, he said.

Blair said he supports a small tax increase on cigarettes, but only if another tax is decreased.

Blair also hopes to pass a bill allowing for five, rather than three, Berkeley County commissioners.

Delegates receive $15,000 a year.

The election is Nov. 5.

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