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Mays to challenge incumbent for 16th District Senate seat

March 28, 2006|by ROBERT SNYDER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The contest for Berkeley County's 16th Senatorial District pits a two-term Democrat incumbent against a former chairman of the county's Republican Executive Committee.

Martinsburg resident Jerry Mays announced in January he was running to unseat Sen. John Unger, whom he described as not responsive to constituent requests and frequently absent from his district.

"We hear constantly that our needs in the Eastern Panhandle are different from the rest of the state and these differences demand a senator who will work full time with the rest of the Eastern Panhandle delegation, who will be responsive to the voters of Jefferson and Berkeley counties, who will follow through on legislative initiatives, who will be here to see that your calls are answered and that an immediate response is forthcoming," Mays said.

Unger said he announced his campaign for a third term in the Senate one door at a time to county residents during a series of weekend campaign appearances last month. He called allegations of nonresponsiveness a misrepresentation, noting his work to bring a new police barracks to Martinsburg, a Department of Motor Vehicles office to Jefferson County, and work on behalf of Berkeley County's farmland protection board and parks and recreation agency.

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"It's all been in response to constituent issues to me from the Eastern Panhandle," Unger said, adding his experience in the Senate and seniority position on committees assures the area better representation in Charleston, W.Va.

Unger presides over the Senate's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and also serves as vice-chairman of the Health and Human Resources Committee, and as senior member of the Education and Finance committees.

The 16th Senate District includes all of Jefferson County and all but six precincts in the southwestern part of Berkeley County.

The candidates are:

Jerry Mays

Age: 63

Address: 211 Sudley Lane, Martinsburg

Occupation: Retired from National Security Agency

Party affiliation: Republican

Top issue: Mays said West Virginia needs a change in its tax law and called for the elimination of the state's business franchise tax.

"Unless we do some serious and comprehensive tax reform, we're not going to be able to draw the young entrepreneurs that we need to build a vibrant economy," said Mays, a former chairman of the county's Republican Executive Committee and former president of the Republican Club. Mays currently serves on the Eastern Panhandle Regional Planning and Development Council, and is a member of the Eastern Panhandle Transportation Authority.

Mays also said he wants to see the state's food and personal property taxes eliminated.

"The food tax has to go," Mays said.

John Unger

Age: 37

Address: P.O. Box 2415, Martinsburg

Occupation: State senator, adviser to the U.S. Department of Energy

Party affiliation: Democrat

Top issue: Unger called the need to address infrastructure upgrades to improve roads, water and sewer services the critical issue for the region.

He also said it remains important that the area have high-speed broadband access.

The area's growth rate and rising cost of living continues to be a strain on senior citizens, said Unger, adding he supports an increase in the homestead exemption, and more needs to be done to improve wages for area state troopers, teachers and government workers.

"Those are the two major issues for at least the next five years," Unger said.

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