CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — The race in District 12 comes down to two men who believe in two competing economic philosophies.
Sen. Mike Romano, seeking his second term, wants to see more money in the hands of working people — and says that will stimulate economic growth.
“I think if you put money in the hands of working people, then that money is spent in the local economy, it creates demand, and when there’s demand, people can make profit off of jobs, and then rich people will create jobs,” Romano said. “Everybody will get rich, including the rich people because they’re going to be able to have more business, make more profit and make more money, but more importantly, our working people get some prestige out of working.”
By getting reward out of working, Romano said, they not only do better for themselves, they do better for their children.
“They reduce poverty, reduce the drug rate, they reduce crime, all because there’s something for people to work for,” he said. “That’s what we have to do, we have to create an incentive for people to go to work.”
However, with Republicans in the majority during Romano’s first term in Charleston, he said he feels they’ve made it “pretty clear that they favor only the rich.
“You see what happened to the teachers,” he said. “They hadn’t had a raise in four straight years. They just wanted a reasonable raise. They finally got to the 5 percent, and the Republicans in the Senate then tried to reduce it by 1 percent again.”
Without such vocal protest from educators statewide, Romano believes the outcome would have been much different.
“Without them coming down and petitioning their government, all they would’ve gotten was 1 percent. That would’ve been it,” he said. “That would’ve been a tragedy for our teachers, our service personnel and all our public employees.”
His opponent, Waymond, Cork believes that economic development is the surest means of solving West Virginia’s most difficult problems. The former Dominion employee and small business owner believes attracting new businesses to the state will create a domino effect that will positively impact the state.
“We need to get jobs. We need to get more companies in here,” Cork said. “The more companies we have, the more jobs we have, the less people we have on welfare, the better tax base we have to be able to fix jobs, schools and everything else.”
Cork not only has 30 years experience with Dominion, but he’s also owned and operated three businesses, “so I know what the business people and the common people want and need,” he said.
Additionally, he feels that he is a politician who will stand up to ‘socialism.’
“This isn’t just a political race for Republican and Democrat,” Cork said. “This political race is different than most of them because we’re fighting against socialism, we’re fighting against all kinds of other things that are coming into our society that I feel that we need to stand up and fight against. It’s time for people to get involved, and that’s what I’ve decided to do is get involved and try to do the right thing for the people here in West Virginia and the United States.”
Cork is a social conservative. A questionnaire from the Family Policy Council reveals Cork supports legislation protecting conversion therapy — a practice outlawed in 11 states and parts of several others. Cork is also against expansion of legal gambling.
“About two years ago, I went through several sleepless nights. I believe God was working on me to do this. If you had asked me four years ago if I’d ever run for political office, I would’ve told you no, but I believe it’s time that somebody needs to step up and fight the stuff that’s going on in this world.
What the two men do agree on is the important role of public education.
Romano was spotted frequently alongside educators and service personnel this spring as they rallied on the picket lines. And says he’ll continue to show that support.
“I hope teachers continue to be a force in West Virginia,” he said. “They need to demand better pay, they need to demand better health care, and they only way they’re going to be able to do that is if they come down and make their voices heard, not only in the capitol but in the ballot box. And they need to do it every election, not just one election.”
While Cork wasn’t yet in the political realm, as a union man himself, he says he’s been in their position.
“I’m with the teachers. I understand,” he said. “I’ve talked to many of them. Some of them are selling crafts along the street on weekends and holidays. Some of the are taking second jobs. I feel their frustrations.”
On the issue of the opioid epidemic, Romano is upset by the prioritization of funding.
“We’ve diverted a lot of money out of the Department of Health and Human Resources that we could’ve directed to creating a system of long-term rehabilitation clinics for particularly our children and some of our adults,” Romano said. “We’ve really lost a generation because we didn’t take that opportunity to do that.”
Romano suggested better support for medical cannabis — considered by some medical experts to be a possible exit drug for those suffering from opioid addiction — is vital moving forward.
Meanwhile, Cork believes the economic situation is what needs to improve to solve the drug crisis.
“I think if we have more jobs — of course jobs mean drug testing — people’s going to clean themselves up and have something to look forward to,” he said.
Come Nov. 6, voters in Harrison, Lewis, Braxton and Clay counties will get to decide which of these two men is better fit to serve them.