Two seek Democrat win in 58th District primary

May 03, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Democratic race for the 58th District West Virginia House of Delegates seat pits a former representative for Gov. Bob Wise against a former Prince George's County, Md., police officer.

Locke Wysong and S. Marshall "Steve" Harris will square off in the May 11 primary election for the seat currently held by Del. Dale Manuel, D-Jefferson, who is running for a Jefferson County Commission position and is not seeking re-election to his delegate seat.

The Democratic nominee will face the winner of the Republican primary race between Fred Blackmer and Suzanne Morgan. The general election is slated for Nov. 2.


West Virginia delegates earn an annual salary of $15,000.

S. Marshall "Steve" Harris

Harris said he sees a number of glaring problems in state government, including archaic laws that hamper progress to an ineffective road system and staggering deficits.

A former Prince George's County police officer with more than 20 years of law enforcement experience, Harris said it is vital that the state give rapidly-growing counties in the Eastern Panhandle the resources needed to beef up their police departments and stay ahead of crime.

One way the issue can be addressed is through the use of police reserves, said Harris, 51, of Route 2, Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Other states allow for the use of armed police reserve units to help police departments with duties, Harris said. But in West Virginia, police reserve officers cannot be armed, Harris said.

It's a law that needs to be changed, said Harris, adding that there are a large number of retired police officers in the area who would be willing to be a part of a police reserve unit if they could be armed.

Harris said the state road system should be reorganized so that local road systems are put under the control of local government, which would hopefully result in better maintenance.

The importance of the issue is illustrated in the community of Shannondale, W.Va., a sprawling development on the Blue Ridge Mountain, Harris said.

Harris said the roads in Shannondale are maintained by the state and during winter storms, residents in the mountain development can be stranded for several days until snow is removed.

Harris said he is troubled by high deficits in state government and the fact that state, local and federal elected officials are getting pay raises in lean times. Harris said he believes state, local and federal elected officials, as well as some appointed government officials, should give up a small amount of their salaries and donate it to state government.

It would be a way to "lead by example," Harris said.

"There is just no reason for West Virginia to fall further, further and further behind," said Harris, who ran unsuccessfully for Jefferson County sheriff four years ago and for the Jefferson County Commission two years ago.

Locke Wysong

Locke Wysong said he believes his background in public office will help him be an effective representative for Jefferson County in the Legislature.

Wysong was a staff assistant and case worker when Gov. Bob Wise represented the state's second congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. When Wise was elected governor, Wysong was appointed as Wise's Eastern Panhandle representative, whose job was to work on constituent issues in the local area.

Wysong, 31, of Charles Town, was Wise's Eastern Panhandle representative between 2000 and 2003.

Not only does Wysong think he has the experience needed to effectively represent Jefferson County, but he knows many of the employees who work in state offices in Charleston, W.Va.

Wysong said those contacts can be beneficial to meet the needs of constituents and help him pursue his platform.

"I'm ready to hit the ground running when I get down there," Wysong said.

Among the issues Wysong has touted in his campaign is convincing the state to do more in terms of preparing the county for expected population growth.

Wysong said it is important to increase the county's tax base through economic growth. To make sure the area is prepared to handle that business growth, the county needs all the state support it requires to build new roads, water systems and high-tech infrastructure, Wysong said.

Many area officials are concerned about the ability of local public schools to handle increased student population, and Wysong said changes are needed in the way the school system is funded.

The local school system gets money from the state for increased enrollment, but the money the school system receives for more students in a given year is based on enrollment figures from the previous year, Wysong said.

That leaves school systems short on cash because student populations often are steadily increasing, Wysong said.

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