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Blair faces Roberts in W.Va. delegate race

October 25, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Craig Blair and Mike Roberts do not appear to be particularly fond of each other.

"Delegate Blair is a partisan Republican," Roberts, 57, of Hedgesville, W.Va., said when asked why people should vote for him to represent the 52nd District in the West Virginia House of Delegates.

"And if he was a bipartisan Republican like (Del.) Walter Duke, he could probably get more accomplished," said Roberts, who is the only Berkeley County Democrat running for a House of Delegates seat in the Nov. 4 general election. "I think I could get a lot more accomplished by building coalitions."

Blair, 49, also of the Hedgesville area, dismissed Roberts' assessment as little more than the "rhetoric of somebody wanting to unseat me."

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"The real truth of the matter is I do reach across party lines all the time," said Blair, who is seeking a fourth two-year term in the House of Delegates. "The privilege tax being turned into a sales tax is a prime example of that, where the governor's office and legislative leadership actually took my bill and amended into their bill."

A small business owner, Blair touted his efforts in reforming workers' compensation and medical malpractice tort reforms as part of a Republican contingent in the Legislature that has advocated for changes, including elimination of the food tax. He acknowledged difficulty in getting local bills passed, such as locality pay for teachers and public employees, but blames that difficulty on sheer numbers.

"We're outnumbered," Blair said of the Eastern Panhandle's eight-member House delegation in the 100-seat chamber. But Blair also noted that lawmakers have succeeded in increasing the amount of "local share" money to county school boards, and anticipated progress on efforts to address the late night bar/tavern legislation after it stalled again this year.

Roberts, however, noted that only five of the 53 bills sponsored by Blair in the 2008 regular session of the Legislature passed, but didn't mention that only four of the 51 bills sponsored by Duke had passed, according to the West Virginia Legislature's Office of Reference & Information Web site.

"It's a tale of two cities," said Roberts, who retired from General Motors Corp. after 37 years. "When the governor pushes something through, he comes back (to the Eastern Panhandle) and he takes credit for help pushing it through."

In September, Roberts reported $6,008 in campaign expenditures and Blair reported $5,834 in spending, according to the most recent finance reports on file with Secretary of State Betty Ireland's office.

The 52nd District includes parts of western Berkeley County and the Hedgesville area and a small portion of Morgan County.

Berkeley County Republican incumbent delegates Duke, Jonathan Miller and John Overington are unopposed in the election.

Members of the House of Delegates will earn $20,000 per year beginning next year.

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