Two seek GOP nomination in W.Va. Senate race

April 22, 2004|BY DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The two Republicans running for a 16th District West Virginia Senate seat share similar ideas about teacher pay, giving local governments more flexibility and dealing with Workers' Compensation issues.

But R. Earl Wilbourne said the similarities end when voters look at his pro-family stance. John Yoder acknowledges the platforms are similar, but the former state senator said he brings more political experience to the table.

Wilbourne and Yoder will vie for the Republican nomination in the race for the 16th District Senate seat in the May 11 primary election.


The victor will face the winner of the Democratic primary race for the seat, which pits Greg Lance against the incumbent, Sen. Herb Snyder.

The senator for the 16th District represents Berkeley and Jefferson counties. Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, also represents the 16th District, but his term is not up this year.

The winner of the general election will serve a four-year term. The position pays $15,000 a year.

John Yoder

Yoder said he has served successfully in all three branches of government. He represented the same Senate district from 1992 to 1996, was a state circuit judge in Kansas from 1976 to 1980, was an assistant to the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and was the director of the asset forfeiture office under the U.S. Department of Justice during the Reagan administration.

"The urgent needs of the Eastern Panhandle are far too important for us to have a representative that needs on-the-job training. I don't need on-the-job training," said Yoder, 53, of 433 Prospect Ave., Harpers Ferry.

Yoder said he supports giving the governments in Berkeley and Jefferson counties more independence to allow them to deal with their unique issues. Yoder said he wants a streamlined state government to replace a "fat and bloated" one, privatization of Workers' Compensation, a better business climate in the state and increased pay for local teachers.

Yoder, an attorney, said he wants teacher pay to be increased due to location and cost of living.

Other candidates and elected officials have called for the same thing, calling it "regional pay."

Regional pay involves paying local state workers a higher rate than their colleagues in other parts of the state. The higher pay is intended to help prevent the workers from crossing into neighboring states for higher salaries.

Yoder said he is running for the Senate because he wants to "restore respect and dignity" to the Eastern Panhandle's senate delegation.

Yoder said the Eastern Panhandle is neglected in the Senate because Snyder "panders to the Democratic leadership from the southern part of the state rather than representing the full interests of the Eastern Panhandle."

R. Earl Wilbourne

Although Wilbourne also supports regional pay for teachers, more flexibility for local government and addressing concerns about Workers' Compensation, he said his domestic platform sets him apart from Yoder.

Wilbourne said he is opposed to abortion and more pro-family than Yoder, which is reflected by the organizations that have endorsed his candidacy.

Those organizations include the West Virginia Family Foundation, West Virginians for Life and Life Gauge, said Wilbourne.

As far as his ability to succeed in the Legislature, Wilbourne said his ministry has prepared him for the job.

Wilbourne said he is an ordained bishop, and as such, he introduces legislation at a bi-annual national conference of Church of God leaders. Wilbourne said the process is identical to the one followed in Charleston, W.Va.

Wilbourne has been senior pastor at the Childs Road Church of God, west of Charles Town along W.Va. 51, for about 24 years.

Wilbourne once operated a construction business in the area, which he says gave him insight into the challenges facing small business.

Prospective businesses will not come to the state because of lawsuit abuse and the state's tax system, Wilbourne said.

Wilbourne, 49, of 4828 Summit Point Road, Charles Town, said the state's franchise tax is an example of how the state discourages business growth. The franchise tax is applied to any equipment a business owner has. Any additional equipment acquired by the business owner is taxed along with all previous equipment, Wilbourne said.

"Businesses won't come to West Virginia because of taxes. I think I understand a great deal about the business climate and how to create jobs," Wilbourne said.

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