Farmer, excavator facing off again in race for 56th District

October 20, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A rematch of the 56th District House of Delegates seat will, for the second time in as many years, pit a farmer against an excavator, with both men agreeing the method used to disperse state money to growing school districts needs to be revised.

The 56th District, which was created two years ago, includes the southwestern portion of Jefferson County and the east-central portion of Berkeley County. Communities in the district include Leetown, Middleway, Summit Point, the western side of Rippon, Baker Heights and Vanville. It also includes the developments of Huntfield and Orchard Hills.

The general election is Nov. 2.

Delegates are elected to two-year terms and receive $15,000 a year.

Bob Tabb

Tabb, 52, said one of his biggest priorities is bringing good-paying jobs to the state and keeping the jobs here.


He also believes the state's workers' compensation program needs to be reformed and health care needs to be made more affordable.

A more business-friendly environment would create a larger tax base, taking pressure off existing businesses, Tabb said.

On local issues, Tabb said he wants to revise the state school-aid funding formula, which gives each county state money for students based on the prior year's enrollment. For rapidly growing counties like Berkeley and Jefferson, the funds fall short of the current year's high enrollment, he said.

Although he does not feel it's necessarily a legislative issue, Tabb said he will work to ensure the four-lane W.Va. 9 project is finished. Following a dump truck accident that caused three deaths on W.Va. 9, Tabb is working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to pass the Rao-Wilcox-Walker Bill. The bill, named after the three people who were killed, would require that anyone involved in a fatal accident be subjected to a blood test to check for the presence of alcohol or drugs.

Tabb has worked for the past 18 years as a volunteer with Independent Fire Co. in Charles Town.

"There's no other legislator who's put more people in body bags than I have," he said.

Tabb owns and operates Town and Country Nursery on Darke Lane near Leetown. He also grows corn and soybeans.

He is a native of Jefferson County.

Tabb, who is finishing his first term as a delegate, said he is proud of the fact that he was present for 100 percent of the votes taken in the House. He said he recently received a letter from the House of Delegates' clerk notifying him of the achievement.

Jim Whitacre

Whitacre said he believes the biggest issue facing the state is the insurance crisis. Insurance premiums are nearly double those in Virginia and Maryland, and some residents cannot obtain insurance, he said.

"These things have hit home for all of us," said Whitacre, 42, of Pikeside.

Reforming the state's court system by eliminating unfair lawsuit awards could help, he said. Judges need to uphold the law, not create new laws, he added.

Whitacre said he is not an advocate for insurance companies, but favors having "an even playing field."

Locally, Whitacre said county commissioners should be given more control in managing their affairs. He cited as an example the need for counties to have the ability to say "no" to certain businesses opening.

Good representation in Charleston, W.Va., also can ensure some of the tax dollars the Eastern Panhandle sends to the state capital come back. He gave as one example the school-aid funding formula. Like Tabb, he favors revising it.

Whitacre said he supports locality pay for state employees in the area, including teachers. Teachers here make the same amount as those in other parts of the state, where the cost of living is lower. As a result, some take higher-paying jobs across state lines in Virginia or Maryland.

Whitacre said the salaries of teachers in other parts of the state should not be lowered, but those of local teachers should be increased.

Two years ago, Whitacre sought the same seat and lost to Tabb. He said he decided to run again because he was unhappy with a few votes Tabb made in Charleston.

A lifelong Berkeley County resident, Whitacre is a self-employed excavating contractor and the property manager for a mobile home park owned by his family.

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