College student battles incumbent in 52nd District race

October 11, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. -Scott Funk, likely one of the youngest people ever to seek a seat on the West Virginia Legislature, said his age could be a benefit to constituents of the 52nd District.

Funk, 21, is running against incumbent Craig Blair, 44, who is finishing his first two-year term.

Blair, a Republican, and Funk, a Democrat, will meet in the Nov. 2 general election.

The 52nd District does not have an incorporated town within its limits, but covers several communities in Berkeley and Morgan counties, including Falling Waters, Marlowe, Unger, Back Creek Valley, Jones Spring, Tomahawk and the unincorporated areas of Hedgesville, Blair said.

Delegates are paid $15,000 a year.

Craig Blair

Blair said there are three issues "that continue to debilitate our state" - the workers' compensation deficit, high insurance rates and what he believes is an unfair judicial system.


"We are being held hostage by the state government and the laws currently on our books," Blair said.

Blair favors eliminating the state-run workers' compensation program and instead privatizing it so companies provide mandatory health insurance with long-term disability to their employees.

He favors having judges elected on a nonpartisan or merit-based system.

"We're being legislated from the bench," he said.

Lawsuit judgments in favor of plaintiffs are contributing to the state's high insurance rates, including home and car insurance premiums, he said.

Blair, who owns a water-related business, believes a bill he created dealing with litter will pass in the next session if he is re-elected.

According to the bill, trained volunteer citizens would call a local number and report litterbugs by providing a description of drivers and license plate numbers.

A sheriff's department deputy would check the number once a day and issue citations within 24 hours, he said.

Those who admit their guilt or lose after a court hearing would pay a fine. Blair said money raised could be given to groups that pick up litter.

Although liberals and conservatives supported the bill in the House of Delegates, it died in the state Senate after it was amended into another bill, he said.

Blair said that as a delegate he believes in and listens to only one special-interest group - people who go to work, pay their bills and raise a family. He said the day he stops representing such people's concerns is the day he will resign.

Scott Funk

A junior at West Virginia University, Funk is majoring in physics and philosophy. If elected, he plans to take off the upcoming spring semester and the spring semester in 2006 to attend the legislative sessions.

Aside from attending school in the fall, Funk would be a full-time delegate, he said.

Funk said he became interested in running because he felt the Legislature was cutting too deeply into education budgets.

He also believes the state needs to examine locality pay for teachers and others, like police officers, who leave for better-paying jobs just across state lines.

"Education is just one of a variety of obstacles facing the next Legislature, unfortunately," he said.

Funk, a lifelong county resident, also is concerned with the state's workers' compensation deficit and health-care issues, he said.

On the issue of infrastructure, Funk said he supports creating an organized group to work with utility and other companies to ensure a decreased quality of life does not accompany growth.

Although he spends his weekdays in Morgantown, W.Va., Funk said he returns home every weekend and has been talking to people about what kind of Legislature they want. He lives outside Hedgesville.

His age, he said, could be a double-edged sword. He said he is familiar with contemporary education and is open-minded, but he does not have the "conventional wisdom" that comes from activities like running a business and being a member of a Chamber of Commerce.

However, a good Legislature is a diverse one, he said.

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