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ELECTION PREVIEW: West Virginia House of Delegates, District 27

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WEST VIRGINIA (WVVA) -- District 27 of the West Virginia House of Delegates is one of the most southern districts in the Mountain State. The lion's share of this district lies within Mercer County, but it also covers a small part of the Southeastern corner of Raleigh County.

2010 Census data shows that there are more than 58,000 people who live in District 27 - that's why there are three Delegates that will be elected here. However, there are four people in the race.

WVVA sat down will all four, asking each to identify some of the top issues facing residents in the district they hope to represent.

Dr. Joe Ellington, the only incumbent in the race, says infrastructure for manufacturing and broadband - healthcare - and education and the pandemic are top concerns for voters.

"As far as education and the COVID situation - safely getting kids back into school, getting more normalcy back in our community - it's gonna be something a lot of people are looking at, as far as getting back to work, but doing it safely," Ellington said. "There has to be a balance between public safety and maintaining our economy."

Retired Army Colonel Doug Smith says he believes the top issues facing voters are jobs, infrastructure, broadband, education, and the opioid epidemic.

"There was a question last Spring about what to do about jail overcrowding, and funding that we have to use for that," Smith said. "We need rehabilitation centers for the drug addicts, and it will help both the overcrowding and the expense that's going to the county by having rehab centers, instead of trying to keep all the people in the facilities out there."

Entrepreneur and longtime lawmaker Marty Gearhart is hoping to return to the statehouse. He says the leading concern for voters are the budget, taxation, spending, drug abuse and infrastructure.

"The infrastructure - and that's all areas of that - that's roads, water, sewage, broadband. We have a variety of needs here in the state of West Virginia that need to be accommodated, some of which are not altogether government provided," Gearhart said. "But we need to do what we can to enhance those things - whether it be streamlining regulations or providing some loan guarantees or seed funding, or whatever the case may be."

Gulf War veteran, social worker, and teacher Tina Russell says roads, a living wage, broadband and healthcare are the biggest issues facing people in District 27.

"I would like to go down there and craft legislation that fights for more access to things, such as healthcare," Russell explained. "I think one of the things that we could do is fight for one of the things that was taken away - for example, there was going to be a nursing home for veterans built in Beckley that would also service the veterans that live here in Mercer County. We also have one district that's Raleigh County that's also part of our delegate district, so it would also affect those people in the district as well. I'd like to see funding brought back to that nursing home, and to local health clinics."

We asked each candidate what they bring to the table if voters decide to send them to the statehouse.

"I know the process well, and have the connections and the people," Ellington explained. "Since I'm on leadership, that gives me an advantage for our county. And it does give some influence to this part of the state being on as a major chair, a committee chair."

"I have a Master's degree in strategic studies - and that's not solving the problem five minutes from now or the immediate problem - that's looking out towards the future," Smith said. "You look at the consequences of what you're planning, what you're doing, and I have that experience."

"Number one would be experience, but number two - I am an unabashed, unapologetic conservative," Gearhart said. "I have a consistent record that reflects that. I believe in lower taxes. I believe in regulation that is less, but more reasonable. I believe in controlling spending and controlling the size of government. Not only am I conservative on the fiscal side, I am a conservative on the social side."

"I know the people here on a grassroots level. I don't think anybody is above or beneath me, I feel like everybody needs to be treated like we're one big family," Russell explained. "I believe I will bring that to the table, because I've actually worked in the homes of the people living up in these hollers. And when I see them, I see me. I believe we deserve the same things. We deserve good healthcare, good roads, and good wages."

Voters will head to the polls to pick three House of Delegates members for District 27 on November 3rd.

Click here for more election previews.

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