Two seek GOP nomination in WVA 58th District primary

May 07, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Improving the state's business climate, increasing funding for local schools and controlling insurance rates are among the issues being addressed by two Republican candidates vying for their party's nomination to the 58th District West Virginia House of Delegates seat.

Fred Blackmer and Suzanne Morgan will face each other in West Virginia's primary election Tuesday.

The victor will face the winner of the Democratic primary race between Locke Wysong and S. Marshall "Steve" Harris.

Incumbent Del. Dale Manuel, D-Jefferson, is stepping down to run for a Jefferson County Commission seat.

The position pays $15,000 a year.

Fred Blackmer

If elected, Blackmer said one of his priorities will be to address escalating insurance costs.

Although car and home insurance rates are getting people's attention, rates for all types of insurance are causing concern, said Blackmer, 56, of 330 Freedom's Way, Harpers Ferry, W.Va.


"Anything that starts with 'ins' is a problem in West Virginia," Blackmer said.

Part of the reason behind the high rates is the small number of insurance providers, which results in little competition to keep rates low, Blackmer said.

The state's tax structure also plays a part, said Blackmer, adding that the state imposes a tax on each policy an insurance company writes.

Blackmer supports improving the state's school funding formula and said it is important that the 58th District representative understand the public service needs of the county, particularly those relating to water and sewer service.

Besides his service on local boards, Blackmer said he often attends local government meetings and offers input on issues facing the county.

Blackmer said it is important for voters to elect someone who understands local needs rather than choosing a representative "just because they know some people in Charleston."

Blackmer said he has a record of public service and is continuing that work through several local agencies.

Blackmer is president of the Jefferson County Property Safety Enforcement Agency, which controls dangerous and unsightly properties in the county; is vice president of the board of directors for the Pan Tran bus service; and is president of Keep Jefferson Beautiful, which works on littering issues.

Blackmer, who does home remodeling work, has made two previous unsuccessful runs for the seat.

Suzanne Morgan

Morgan, a native of Morgantown, W.Va., who moved to the area three years ago, said she is running for the local House seat because she believes Jefferson County's economy is not growing fast enough and more can be done to make the state business friendly.

Morgan said she is in favor of tax reform and legal reforms that would prevent huge suit settlements against businesses.

She also would like to see an overhaul of the state's Workers' Compensation Division as soon as possible. Workers' Compensation helps workers pay for medical expenses when they are injured on the job. Local employees have complained of slow claims payments, the inability to get assistance from workers in the agency in answering questions, and bad regulations in the agency.

High premiums have been one of the main concerns among business owners.

Morgan was one of about 220 business owners, professionals, educators and lawmakers who gathered Monday in Shepherdstown, W.Va., to discuss ways of bringing more high-tech businesses to the Eastern Panhandle.

Strong high-tech growth is possible here, given the good work force and quality of life, Morgan said.

"We can do that here, but it will take some bold action in the Legislature to turn the business climate around," said Morgan, 46, of 2 Brookline Drive, Charles Town.

One way to create an attractive business climate is by having a strong public education system, Morgan said.

Also on next Tuesday's ballot is a proposed $19 million school bond issue, which will be used to help construct a new high school if it is approved.

"This bond has got to pass. It really, really does," said Morgan, who has been working to generate public support for it.

Morgan runs her own consulting businesses that helps people with political campaign management and fund raising.

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