CHARLES TOWN — For the two Republicans vying for their party’s nomination in next month’s primary election, the issue comes down to too much spending.
W. Matthew Harris and Patricia Rucker will face off May 13 to see which one will challenge incumbent Democrat Stephen Skinner in November to represent the 67th District in the House of Delegates. Skinner is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Harris, 42, of Harpers Ferry, who is running for the second time, said the state’s current leaders “are not headed in the right direction.”
“It’s tax, tax, tax,” Harris said. “I don’t think they read the bills before voting on them. At some point, the Legislature approved giving the casinos $1 million to improve their machines. That money could be better spent.”
Harris would eliminate the state income tax and personal property tax.
“Again, it comes down to balancing the budget,” he said. “Our leaders have to stop making excuses. They may think they have all the answers, but they don’t. Redesign the budget. Have more transparency. Listen to the people you represent.”
Rucker is also critical of the Legislature’s handling of state funds.
She said the Legislature’s use of the Rainy Day Fund to solve budget shortfalls was “unacceptable.”
“It really shows a lack of leadership,” said Rucker, 39, of Harpers Ferry. “They didn’t prepare financially. They didn’t see the writing on the wall. They were depending on sources of revenue like gambling. They kept patting themselves on the back for always being in the black. We weren’t diversifying.”
Rucker, who became a U.S. citizen 10 years ago, after emigrating from Venezuela, said she also is concerned about education. She said more decision-making power should be given to the local community.
“There is a huge disparity in performance in the schools throughout the county,” she said. “Too many schools aren’t getting the resources they need. The local school board should have the opportunity and make the choices that are best for their schools. More authority and accountability.”
Rucker received her B.A. degree in history from Trinity College in Washington, D.C. She has been an active volunteer in 4-H, Jefferson County Little League, church activities, and environmental groups. She is the founder of We The People of West Virginia-Jefferson County, a bipartisan group based on the principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and Constitutional integrity.
She said she believes she’d bring a new set of eyes to the Legislature.
“I believe I’ll bring a fresh perspective and common sense solutions that will resolve problems early on,” she said. “You see right from wrong, see a path and stick with it.”
Harris, a small business owner, received his Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration and economics from the State University of New York in Oneonta. He teaches an introduction to business and economics at the adult education program in Martinsburg.
He said another concern of his are a lack of services for young people and seniors.
“We don’t have a community center where the kids can go to keep them off the streets,” he said. “We could fund these things if we just balanced the budget.”
He said he prides himself on his ability to research issues. He is in the process of writing three books, the proceeds of which he will give to teen and senior programs.
“I don’t have all the answers,” he said. “I’m not a career politician. It’s not easy running for office. I’m not trying to be president. I want to represent the common people, the working class.”
Democrat Delegate Skinner of Shepherdstown is running for his second term. He said he agrees with his opponents that budget challenges remain with the Legislature.
“The majority of proceeds from the West Virginia Lottery are generated by Jefferson County. The Legislature seems to think the proceeds are a piggy bank that can be raided at any time. The money we’re bringing in in Jefferson County, from tourism, for example, is used to fill in budget holes.”
Skinner succeeded in getting 13 bills he sponsored signed into law in the last session. One is the Small Business Emergency Act, which helps small businesses impacted by emergencies, such as the recent chemical spill in Charleston. Another bill is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which requires reasonable accommodations in the workplace for pregnant and nursing women.
Skinner said he considers himself to be pragmatic.
“I work to find solutions to actual problems that we have. I don’t deal with ‘fake issues’ like the West Virginia Legislature can nullify Obamacare. No, it can’t,” he said.