Of the 17 West Virginia State Senate races to be decided Nov. 6, 16 are contested. The following is part of a series of stories brought to you by the MetroNews team.
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — State Senator Mike Azinger says he is excited about the stare’s direction and hopes voters give him four more years to continue the trend.
“Things are going well now,” he said. “We passed good tort legislation right out of the gate. We’re on our way to a strong economy, all the numbers are good.”
Azinger, one of the most conservative members of the Senate’s Republican majority, wants to continue the trend toward
deregulation and removal of tax burdens on business.
“States prosper essentially on two main foundations,” he said. “One is they cut taxes and the other is they don’t spent money and have spending cuts.”
His prize for cutting taxes would be the state’s Business Inventory Tax. He considered it to be the most onerous one still on the books for business owners. Admittedly Azinger said it will take heavy lifting since removal of the tax would require a Constitutional amendment. He believed the effort would be worthwhile, if it can be achieved.
“There’s still work to do,” he said. “There’s been 83 years of bad policy and it takes a lot to change.”
He’s hoping to continue to be part of the Republican leadership to push for those changes. However, his opponent, Democrat Jim Leach isn’t looking at the race through a political lens at all.
“I’m not approaching this as a Democrat or a Republican,” Leach said. “I’m approaching this as a well qualified and well rounded candidate. I have an understanding of everything from energy regulation to environmental regulation to economics and science of the extraction industry in West Virginia. That’s the expertise I bring to the Senate.”
Leach has experience in many different fields, but returned to WVU and earned a law degree with an emphasis on energy law. His son, J-Morgan Leach, is also an energy attorney. The two have teamed up on the campaign trail as the younger Leach is seeking a seat int he House of Delegates.
Leach would like to see the state’s resources do more than ride a train or a pipeline out of state.
“A central focus of my campaign is that it’s time for West Virginia resources to be used to benefit West Virginians,” he said. “For decades and generations all of the value of our natural resources has gone to others out of state.”
He backs the idea of an ethane cracker which has been talked about in his district at the old G.E. Plastics Plant. He also advocated the idea of an Appalachian Storage Hub for ethane and other natural gas products.
“My focus is entirely on dedicating those resources to build those downstream resources in West Virginia,” said Leach.
But the diversification for Leach doesn’t stop there. He and his son run one of the largest industrial hemp operations in West Virginia. According to Leach, hemp could play a big role in the state’s economic future.
“The value of the hemp crop is undeniable if we can get out in front,” he said. “West Virginia, due in large part to my son’s lobbying and drafting efforts, has some of the most favorable legislation in the United States.”