Miller, Burton square off in W.Va. House of Delegates race

October 16, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Both candidates in the West Virginia House of Delegates 53rd District race in southern Berkeley County said in recent interviews that they personally oppose gambling but disagree on how the question of adding table games at Charles Town Races & Slots should be decided.

Jerry L. Burton of 130 Audrey Lane, Inwood, W.Va., the Democratic Party's 57-year-old nominee for the seat, said Jefferson County voters should be given the right to decide whether to allow an expansion of gambling.

"It's not going to affect me directly," Burton said.

Republican Party nominee Jonathan Miller, 22, of 342 Quarry Road, Bunker Hill, W.Va., said residents statewide should have the opportunity to vote on a proposed gambling expansion because the revenue generated is distributed statewide, essentially giving everyone a "stake" in the outcome.

A mortgage broker, Miller noted Berkeley County's loss of law enforcement agents who have accepted jobs in Jefferson County for more money as an indirect result of the gaming revenue generated now.


Both candidates said they were concerned about the state's dependence upon gaming revenue, which Burton believes should now be reinvested into initiatives to diversify the economy.

In his 36th year of teaching, Burton said his strategy for winning lawmakers' support in Charleston, W.Va., for locality pay for educators and other similar Eastern Panhandle growth-related issues, begins with education.

"You can't go down there and beat them over the head and think you're going to get their support," Burton said.

Burton also believes other members of the local delegation and interest groups, including the state teacher unions, need to be unified in their approach to get legislators elsewhere on board with what needs to be done.

"Get petitions, get every concerned group behind you," Burton said.

Miller's efforts to educate other lawmakers on the area's problems would include inviting two or three delegates each year to visit the Eastern Panhandle and for area residents to travel to Charleston to share accounts of their hardship.

A visit "would let them see what we're dealing with on a daily basis," Miller said.

If elected, Miller said he would advocate for more local control, including a move toward a county-based tax system.

"We've got to update our government and move into the 21st century," Miller said.

Through empowerment, he also supports allowing county residents to make more decisions, such as whether limited video lottery machines should be phased out of operation at area clubs and fraternal organizations.

If elected, Burton said his focus would be placed on "maintaining the quality of life for our citizens," including development of parks for the southern and northern areas of the county, widening W.Va. 51 and adding an Interstate 81 interchange near Runnymeade Road.

Configured in the shape of a boot, the 17 precincts in the 53rd delegate district include part or all of the communities of Jones Springs, Shanghai, Ganotown, Glengary, Gerrardstown, Pikeside, Darkesville, Inwood, Bunker Hill and Ridgeway.

Members of the House of Delegates are elected to serve two-year terms and are paid $15,000 per year. Miller and Burton are vying to replace Del. Vic Roberts, R-Berkeley, who opted not to seek re-election.

The general election is Nov. 7.

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