Charles Town attorney, Harpers Ferry retiree fight for new 67th district seat

October 21, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Democrat Stephen Skinner and Republican Elliot Simon are seeking the newly created 67th district seat in the West Virginia House of Delegates.
Democrat Stephen Skinner and Republican Elliot Simon are seeking the newly created 67th district seat in the West Virginia House of Delegates.

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Democrat Stephen Skinner and Republican Elliot Simon are seeking the newly created 67th district seat in the West Virginia House of Delegates.

Skinner is new to politics and Simon is making his second run for the House.

Longtime Democratic Del. John Doyle of Shepherdstown, W.Va., is ending a two-year term in the soon-to-be-history 57th District, when it is replaced in January by the newly redistricted 67th. Doyle is leaving politics after 20 years.

The 67th, Jefferson County’s second-largest district, runs from the Blue Ridge Mountain area through Harpers Ferry and Bolivar, follows the Potomac River to Shepherdstown north to the Washington County line and west to the Berkeley County line.

Early voting for the Nov. 6 general election runs through Nov. 3, including Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Stephen Skinner

Skinner, 44, a Charles Town attorney, has been working behind the scenes on social justice and human-rights issues since he returned to Jefferson County in 2004 from New York City, where he worked for a law firm.


“I came back because there was something missing, and that something was West Virginia,” he said. “I’m passionate about West Virginia and I believe I can help to move it forward. We are in a unique position here. We have an opportunity for the Eastern Panhandle to become the leader in the state. We don’t have to let the southern part of the state plan our future here.”

Skinner said it’s more important to focus on education and infrastructure for economic development than on chasing companies with tax breaks.

“It’s critical for the county to preserve and promote its cultural, art and historic resources — the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, Shepherd University, the Contemporary American Theater Festival and American Conservation Film Festival. We have some of the most amazing cultural and historic resources in the country,” he said.

As for gun control, Skinner said the Second Amendment is not as clear cut on gun ownership as supporters claim. A gun owner, Skinner supports “an honest conversation on gun control and reasonable regulations.”

Skinner said government needs to help homeowners whose mortgages are higher than the value of their homes.

“Maryland does a better job of letting people stay in their homes,” he said.

Vacant, foreclosed houses lowers home values in any neighborhood, he said.

Skinner graduated from Jefferson High School and West Virginia Wesleyan, and earned his law degree at West Virginia University College of Law. He works in his family’s law firm in Charles Town.

He is a member of the West Virginia Commission on the Arts, the Shepherd University Foundation and the Contemporary American Theater Festival board.

He lives in Shenandoah Junction.

Elliot Simon

Simon, 58, is the more experienced politician running in the 67th district. He won the Republican primary in 2010 and lost the general election that year to Doyle in the 57th district. He won the Republican primary in May.

Simon, a fiscal conservative with tea party leanings, is again bringing his campaign to the voters in Jefferson County.

“I’m running for the same reasons I ran in 2010 — the economy,” he said. “We’ve made some progress in West Virginia on tax reform, but we have to do more. We need to lower the business income tax and eliminate the retail inventory tax so we can be more competitive with our neighbors.”

West Virginia also needs to change its legal climate, Simon said.

“We need tort reform to cut down on frivolous lawsuits. The judicial system needs to be changed to one that holds nonpartisan election of judges. It would be a better court system with less potential for corruption if judges ran for office with no party affiliations.”

Simon said West Virginia needs an “intermediate court of appeals to sit between the circuit courts and the West Virginia Supreme Court on civil cases. Business needs a fair shake in the court system.”

The public school system has too many administrators and bureaucrats, and too much central control by the state.

“We send our money to Charleston and they decide how it’s allocated,” he said. “The system needs to be decentralized so that the taxes we pay for our schools stay here so we can pay our own teachers.”

Simon supports school choice, charter schools and home schooling.

He said he wants to “end the horror” caused by the permitting processes that businesses have to go through to get permits.

“We need to streamline the process to get business up and running,” he said.

Until he retired in 2008, Simon was an executive in the business travel and ground transportation industry in New York City.

He grew up in Long Island and is a 1976 graduate of the University of Chicago. He is on the board of directors of the Eastern Panhandle Homeowners Association and plays keyboard for the Rolling Coyotes, a local trio.

He and his wife, Isabel, live in Blue Ridge Acres in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Campaign finances

On Sept. 23, according to The Associated Press, the balance in Skinner’s campaign account was $56,200, compared to the $14,900 reported by Simon. Among Skinner’s donors were lawyers and labor union political action committees, according to the AP.

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