Candidates for state legislature offer views on school security, drug addiction, business regulations and more

BUCKHANNON — Candidates running for local State Senate and House of Delegates races participated in the second forum organized by Upshur Indivisible-Votes Saturday.

The candidates were given time to make an introduction and closing statement as well as answer questions from the audience ranging from arming classroom teachers to the environment and campaign finance reform.

Margaret Beckwith, a Democrat seeking the 11th district State Senate Seat, was the first asked to share her thoughts on arming classroom teachers.

“I do not believe in arming school teachers,” she said. “I think that would be the last thing we would consider.  That to me is something that would cause more problems than it would solve.”

Robert “Bob” Kincaid, running for the House of Delegates 45th district said, “I am personally against arming teachers because number one, the majority of teachers are not going to be qualified to carry a firearm. Arming our teachers would be something the county [school system] has to deal with based on risk. If the risk was great, we might want to think about that and think about training someone who is armed.”

Instead, Kincaid pointed to the prevention resource officers which are in three of the schools and noted that there could be changes looked at in how visitors access the school because in some schools, they are buzzed into the building but then could go left or right without going to the office.

Laura Finch, also running as a Democrat for the State Senate 11th district seat, said the idea of arming classroom teachers was “preposterous.”

“Of course, we know when we have a firearm, we ourselves are at risk of having a firearm used against us,” she said. “For those who choose to take on the risk, I think they absolutely have the right, given they are not barred by mental health or criminal behavior, to carry a firearm. I do think that needs to be tempered by background checks and closing the gun show loop hole.”

Matthew Kerner, who is running as a Democrat for the House of Delegates 45th district seat, said, “I think that is a really terrible idea to arm teachers. People do weird things under stress when trauma hits. I have seen trained infantrymen completely lose it. I don’t think a teacher who is not really prepared for that is going to be able to respond appropriately.”

Kerner agreed with Kincaid in looking at physical security of the building and looking at prevention resource officers.

Another question asked how the candidates would address drug addiction.

Kincaid said, “We have to change our cultural outlook on what we have done to our younger people through movies or through acceptance and things like that. We have allowed the attitude to come about that using these substances that hurt your body is probably OK. We need to start educating early in our school systems and things like that on the actual causes and things that happen to your body when you use drugs.”

Kincaid also pointed to detection.

“We have overmedicated people in our society and now drug addiction is out of hand,” he said. “We have to make sure we identify why they started using those drugs and start attacking the reasons.”

Finch, an attorney who has a private practice, also said she takes appointments as an alternate public defender.

“It’s a healthcare crisis,” she said. “We have to wonder why the lawyers of our state are the ones getting folks into rehab. It’s because our state’s not strong enough to provide these services. It’s a huge problem that requires a lot of different approaches, but healthcare most importantly. These folks need to be in a facility where they can change their people, places and things and regain control of their lives.”

Kerner, executive director of Opportunity House, said, “It’s what I do for living. One thing we need to do is eliminate the undue influence of the pharmaceutical industry on our legislature.”

For example, Kerner said the prescription drug database in West Virginia monitors drugs going to the end user but not anything coming to the system such as the eight million pills that went to Kermit over three to four year period or the 21 million pills that went to Williamson.

“If we were using the database that already exists properly, we would have known those pills were here,” he said. “But we didn’t. It wasn’t an accident. It was willful ignorance.”

Beckwith said, “Because the problem was allowed to get so large before much action was taken in our state. We have to have a multi-pronged approach to it. We need more rehab centers but we definitely need to start with education. We have to do something about the influence of big pharma in our state. What they have brought in is unbelievable. Our legislators need to stop accepting the money from big pharma.”

Another question asked, “What will you do to see that the environment, the home we live in, is protected from big corporate interests and the people are represented when it comes to business development and clean water and air?”

Finch said, “I think the problem we are facing now is there aren’t enough folks in Charleston now who are interested in maintaining our pristine environment. We need to understand we rob Peter to pay Paul when we allow industry to take advantage of our natural resources without protecting the environment. That’s how we get money here to spend money. I think it comes down to implementing regulations with the advice of scientists.”

Kerner said, “I agree we need to do everything we can to not just to create new regulations but to enforce the ones we have.  We lose sight of the fact that the largest industry in West Virginia is tourism.

“We sacrifice that for our third largest industry right now – the coal industry.”

Beckwith said, “For years and years, West Virginia has been at the mercy of companies – mostly out of state companies.  The more time passes, we get more people in the legislature that are taking money from the corporations that are fouling our water, our air and our future. I want to see some very big things happen with that. It’s very, very important, it is our future and we must consider all possibilities.”

Kincaid said, “I promote we live in the greatest state in the country and we need to keep it that way. Water is a very precious thing. We need to protect our water sources – upstream and downstream. We have regulations on the books that do that; we need to enforce those regulations. We also have civil activities that monitor what happens. We have allowed too many big corporations to come in and ruin our environment. The people, the organizations and the governments needs to be in partnership with the businesses so we can have a climate for jobs and protect our environment.”

Several candidates who could not attend sent letters or an audio recording that were shared with the audience: Carl “Robbie” Martin running as a Republican for the House of Delegates 45th district, Sen. Robert Karnes running for re-election as a Republican for the State Senate 11th District, Patrick Martin, running for re-election as a Republican for the House of Delegates 46th district and Barbara Daniels, running on the Mountain Party for the House of Delegates 44th seat. The forum was live-streamed and is available to be viewed on the Upshur County Indivisible-Votes Facebook page. The third in the three-part candidate forum series will take place Saturday, April 21 from 4-6 p.m. at the Opportunity House Recovery Center on Cleveland Avenue. Those candidates running for national office have been invited to participate.


More In Local News