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Faircloth to seek GOP nod for governor

October 27, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Del. Larry Faircloth's candidacy could be one for the history books.

Lawmakers across the Eastern Panhandle said Sunday they could not remember any other person from Berkeley, Jefferson or Morgan counties who has run for the state's highest office.

It will be interesting to see whether the state is ready for a gubernatorial candidate from the easternmost section of the state, said Jerry Mays, chairman of the Berkeley County Republican Executive Committee.

The Eastern Panhandle's comparison with the rest of the state often seems like night and day.

Local government officials often complain about the state laws that are passed in Charleston, W.Va., how they feel ignored by the rest of the state and how inflexible the state government system is in dealing with the rapidly changing conditions in the growing Eastern Panhandle.

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When he is watching television during visits to Charleston, "they don't even give the weather" from the Eastern Panhandle, said Jefferson County Commissioner Greg Corliss.

"Charleston's always treated us like a stepchild. It will be interesting to see how (this) shakes out," Mays said.

"It's a bold move on Larry's part. It would be certainly national news if he could pull this off," said Berkeley County Commissioner John E. Wright.

Faircloth, R-Berkeley, announced his decision to run for governor during the Berkeley County Republican Club's Dwight D. Eisenhower Dinner on Saturday night.

Faircloth said his 23 years in the Legislature have helped him understand issues and challenges across the state, including impoverished coal counties, unemployment and the fast-growing Eastern Panhandle.

Faircloth said he anticipates gaining support from the National Rifle Association, Chamber of Commerce and "right-to-life" organizations.

"I've made the tough votes," Faircloth said. "I believe come next November, we can have a Republican governor. We can't do business as usual."

The Berkeley County lawmaker intends to file precandidacy papers next month and will not run for re-election to represent the 57th district in the state Legislature.

Wright said he had to go back more than 75 years to remember a successful candidate who was from an area close to the three easternmost counties of the Panhandle. That candidate, John Jacob Cornwell, was from Romney, W.Va., and was elected in 1916.

Del. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, said the only easternmost gubernatorial candidate he can remember was Democrat Clyde See from Moorfield, W.Va., who lost in a race against former Gov. Arch Moore in 1984.

Faircloth's decision to run brought a mix of reactions.

Faircloth is known as a hardworking legislator who understands state government, but his decision to endorse Democratic candidates for office in recent years has hurt him, said Del. John Overington, R-Berkeley.

One of those races was when Faircloth supported Democratic candidate Laura Rose in Rose's race against Overington, Overington said.

"I think that will come back to haunt him," Overington said.

Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, was reserved in his reaction to Faircloth's announcement.

Although Unger said he sees Faircloth during caucus meetings in Charleston, he does not see him much beyond that.

When asked if he thinks Faircloth would make a good governor, Unger said "I don't really know."

Del. John Doyle said the Republican primary could be an interesting race.

Three of the main Republican candidates have various issues related to them that could hold them back from victory, said Doyle, D-Jefferson.

"I think this is very interesting. I actually think he has a chance at winning the Republican primary," said Doyle, referring to Faircloth.

At least five other Republicans have said they will seek their party's endorsement in the May primary election, and Mays said he is glad to see a large number of Republicans running because big races usually produce better candidates.

Until now, Corliss said he has liked Republican candidate Rob Capehart, particularly because of his ideas on overhauling the state's business tax system. Now, Corliss said he wants to learn more about Faircloth.

"We need to hear him out and see what his proposals are," Corliss said.

"He knows the offices down there and he's acquainted with everyone he needs to be acquainted with. Larry knows what all's involved. How determined he is, I don't know," Wright added.

Faircloth could not be reached for additional comment Sunday.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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