Voters will find three familiar faces on the primary election ballot for statewide races next week. Three area residents are competing for the position of commissioner of agriculture, attorney general and state Supreme Court justice.
Robert “Bob” Tabb, a fourth generation farmer, is making a run for agriculture commissioner, competing for the Democratic nomination against longtime state lawmaker Walt Helmick, Kanawha County resident Sally Shepherd, assistant Agriculture Commissioner Steve Miller, and Jim Messineo, who recently retired from the agency.
Meanwhile, attorney Patrick Morrisey is running to replace Attorney General Darrell McGraw in a race that won’t be decided until November’s general election, while onetime state senator and current 23rd Circuit Judge John Yoder is assured a Republican nomination, along with Allen Loughry of Charleston, for two open seats on the state Supreme Court.
Tabb, who has worked as a deputy commissioner since 2009, said his goal as commissioner would be to educate the public of the importance of agriculture and assist producers with production and marketing.
“I have a lifetime of experience in agriculture,” Tabb said. “This election gives me the opportunity to lead agriculture forward in West Virginia.”
Tabb said he and his wife Nancy have been in the nursery and farm business for more than 30 years growing trees and vegetables.
In 2002, Tabb was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates. He was re-elected for three additional terms and served as the vice chair of the committee on agriculture for five years.
Tabb said his experience both as a legislator and work in agriculture provides him with firsthand knowledge of both policies in the West Virginia Legislature and executive leadership in Department of Agriculture.
“The county and the world population are growing. Agriculture has to produce more food to feed those people,” Tabb said, adding one of his goals would be to have the words “West Virginia grown” a part of everyday vocabulary.
“The citizens of West Virginia will have a strong voice for agriculture by electing me your next commissioner of agriculture,” Tabb said.
Monongalia County resident Kent Leonhardt of Fairview, is running unopposed for the Republican nomination, while Carl Waggoner, of White Sulphur Springs is a write-in candidate.
A prominent health care lawyer, Patrick Morrisey has never held a political office but notes more than 20 years’ experience in senior level legal policy and government experience as qualifications for the role of attorney general.
Morrisey was one of the attorneys in private practice who helped the state in their challenge again President Obama reform of health care.
“I have a laser-like focus on the issues West Virginians care about the most,” Morrisey said. “People care about ethics reform, health care and the overreaching federal statutes and regulations.”
In addition to his expertise in health care, Morrisey has handled administrative law, election law, public policy, and several criminal defense matters. Morrisey has been very active in the Eastern Panhandle community since moving to West Virginia in 2006, volunteering for the Potomac Street Project, an ongoing effort to rebuild part of downtown Harpers Ferry and serving as a member of the Eastern Panhandle Business Association. Morrisey also has served on the Jefferson County Republican Executive Committee.
He calls the race for the attorney general office one of dramatic contrasts.
“The incumbent has been in office for 32 years versus me; I am a West Virginian with values. I will finally free the state from excessive federal regulations,” Morrisey said, adding he has an 11-point proposal for the state that includes returning settlement monies directly to taxpayers. “The state Legislature must decide on where the money goes. Not the attorney general.”
Morrisey said he would eliminate the use of taxpayer resources for political self-promotion and institute competitive bidding.
“We should not be paying lawyers $3,300 an hour,” Morrisey said, adding he will limit himself to two terms in office, if elected.
Yoder said he has a number of reasons why he is running for justice of the Supreme Court.
“My main reason is that I have a very high degree of respect for the rule of law and the independent legal system,” Yoder said. “I want to do what I can to help improve the Supreme Court system in West Virginia. Right now I think it’s too political.”
Yoder said as a trial judge he has limited terms of what he can decide.
“As a Supreme Court justice, I can put my own opinions down on paper. I can help shape the legal system and help make changes in a positive way,” he said, adding as a trial judge there are a lot of times where he has had to make decisions in a certain way not to his liking because he knew the Supreme Court would reverse his decision.
“I think there should be more emphasis on keeping children with a natural parent. If I’m on the court I can write an opinion and help change the existing attitude,” Yoder said. “I enjoy research and writing.”
Yoder said another reason he wants to be on the Supreme Court is representation.
“All of the justices are from the Charleston area. Four are from Charleston and one is form Huntington,” he said. “Kanawha Valley has 20 percent of the population in the state.
I think other areas like the Eastern Panhandle should be represented. The 80 percent of the rest of the state and people of the panhandle have a different philosophy than those in the valley.”