HUNTINGTON — With businesses slowly reopening, attention is being drawn back toward the ballot box with West Virginia’s upcoming primary election.
The 2020 elections have posed a unique set of challenges for candidates, as COVID-19 quarantine policies have made it difficult to participate in traditional campaigning. Likewise, the virus itself and the government response to it weighs heavily on the average voter, drawing attention away from other issues.
The 3rd Congressional District of West Virginia is no different in this regard. Covering Boone, Cabell, Fayette, Greenbrier, Lincoln, Logan, Mason, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Raleigh, Summers, Wayne, Webster and Wyoming counties, the 3rd District represents a huge chunk of West Virginians.
First-term U.S. Rep. Carol Miller, the incumbent, is unopposed in the primary. Though Russell Siegel was also running as a Republican candidate, he has ended his campaign.
Since her election in 2018, Miller said she has focused heavily on attempting to create new jobs and diversifying West Virginia’s economy, while attempting to support the state’s coal, oil and natural gas industries. Recently, much of Miller’s focus has been drawn to congressional votes on issues such as the HEROES Act, which she voted against.
One of the four Democrats running for a chance to unseat Miller is Jeff Lewis, who has spent 20 years working with Verizon and representing their workers in local bureaus. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2010, Lewis has used his health as motivation to continue campaigning and attempt to help others.
“Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you yourself are incapable of doing what you want,” said Lewis. “You can’t control it, but it doesn’t control you either. Achieve what you desire.”
Lewis lists his lifetime of working alongside blue-collar workers as both a qualification for office and an inspiration for his top priorities. Health care for the average worker and a diversified job pool rank among his goals going forward.
Another Democratic candidate in the race for the 3rd District is Hilary Turner, who has been politically active since high school. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in international studies, Turner spent several years teaching English in Central and South America. Since returning to her home in Greenbrier County, Turner has been active in the fights for social justice and environmental protection.
“I’ve had a broad range of life experiences that can let me relate to the average person,” said Turner. “Even being a mother has helped me learn. I feel like I can really relate to and connect with the working families of West Virginia.”
Turner intends on attempting to establish universal health care, should she be voted into office, believing that everyone has a right to aid without fear of medical debt. She also wants to establish measures to protect West Virginia’s wildlife and natural resources.
“I want to bring West Virginia into the future,” said Turner. “I want to raise us up and diversify us, while still fighting back against climate change to save what we already have for future generations.”
Democratic candidate Lacy Watson also believes he can understand the average worker, but for a different reason. Watson instead trusts in his various levels of education to guide him, having earned several degrees, including an undergraduate biology degree, a master’s in psychology and an upcoming Ph.D. in globalization.
“My education has been structured and planned in a way that gives me a perfect overview of how and why a person thinks,” said Watson. “I believe that is something which is lacking in the other candidates.”
Watson wants to inspire hope and change in the people of West Virginia, and believes that the first way to do this is to pursue legislation for affordable health care. Watson also wants to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to lower the prices of drugs, and import medication from Canadian institutions.
“There are people who need these medications in our state, in our country, and can’t afford them,” said Watson. “They end up having to choose between the pills they need or dinner for a week.”
In comparison, Democratic candidate Paul E. Davis wants to tackle drug addiction across the state. The general manager and CEO of the Tri-State Transit Authority in Huntington, Davis has spent the past 60 years of his life working to improve his city.
“I could just spend the next few years here until I ride out into retirement, but I don’t want to do that,” said Davis. “I want to give back to the community that has supported and grown me throughout my life.”
Davis’ platform is centered around the message of fighting for the underdog, believing that the greatest priority is giving the person the power to make a difference in their own lives. The primary example of this comes in the form of addiction rehabilitation, which Davis seeks to completely reform through legislation.
“A 30-day program just doesn’t work,” said Davis. “These people need actual help, a year-long program or even more. We can’t just let these people get thrown through a quick cycle and then tossed back out into the streets.”
The West Virginia primary will take place June 9. More information on the candidates for other positions can be found online at www.herald-dispatch.com/elections.