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Door-to-door candidate? Unger hits campaign trail

July 06, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. - State Sen. John Unger on Wednesday launched a seven-day "walk across the (16th) district" of constituents he represents in the West Virginia Legislature, urging Hedgesville's elected leaders to join him in a team effort to address community needs.

"Let's work together to draft legislation - we don't have to hire the big-time lawyers to do it," Unger told Town Council members gathered for their regular monthly meeting.

Unger's walk will begin in earnest this morning at the Hedgesville Volunteer Fire Hall. The 37-year-old Democrat plans to walk through portions of West Virginia communities, including Martinsburg, Falling Waters, Marlowe, Bedington, Baker Heights, Inwood, Kearneysville, Middleway, Charles Town, Ranson, Shepherdstown and Bolivar, before concluding the walk at Harpers Ferry on July 11.

After the walk, Unger said he will take part in a series of "idearaisers" in homes throughout the district to develop a covenant with the Eastern Panhandle.

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In 1998, Unger walked across what was then a three-county district, including Berkeley and Morgan counties, in his successful bid to win the Senate seat. Unger formed the Eastern Panhandle People's Empowerment Coalition (EPPEC) movement afterward and went on to defeat Republican incumbent Harry Dugan in the election. He did not face opposition in 2002, but is opposed this year in the general election by Berkeley County Republican Jerry M. Mays.

"On the surface, the Eastern Panhandle is the envy of the state," Unger said in a news release he distributed to the media.

"Our community is one of the strongest and fastest growing in America. Yet, underneath the surface, there is anxiety about our future," he said.

Council members Wednesday more than once sought Unger's opinion on issues during the meeting and the Martinsburg native began his remarks by discouraging the town from acting too quickly on tax reform in lieu of Gov. Joe Manchin's planned special session on the issue.

"There's no use going through the exercise until we see what happens on the state level," Unger said.

Unger said the coalition helped bring about legislative changes consisting of stronger laws against DUI and litter, the creation of the state's farmland protection program and funding for school safety.

He billed the covenant as a continuation of those efforts.

"I'm looking for new and truly innovative ideas that will ensure our residents the freedom and opportunity to achieve financial security and will build a better, brighter community for our children," Unger said. "I will continue to listen and be guided by our people's ideas, not the special interest agenda."

Mays, 63, was not impressed, questioning where Unger's "walks" had been in the intervening years and targeted the Senator's support of the Berkeley County farmland protection board's decision to preserve Boydville, a historic estate in the City of Martinsburg.

"One of the main reasons I have chosen to run is the chronic inability of reaching the senator," Mays said.

A Web site with more information about Unger's campaign is on the Internet at www.senatorunger.org

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