BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — Former state House member Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, has launched a 2020 election campaign to rejoin the West Virginia Legislature as a delegate representing the 27th District, which includes most of Mercer County and a portion of Raleigh County.
Gearheart, 57, filed pre-candidacy documents Tuesday to run for one of three seats allocated to the district. He previously won the the 24th District seat in 2010, and later represented the 27th District from 2013 through last year. Gearheart opted to not seek reelection in 2018, instead running in the Republican primary for the 3rd District Congressional seat eventually won by current U.S.Representative Carol Miller.
Gearheart told MetroNews affiliate WJLS-AM his interest in state issues has not waned in the time he has been away from the legislature.
“I really have done the best that I can to stay out of the way and not to be obtrusive to those people that have been elected and have a job to do, but I’ve paid attention,” said Gearheart. “I’ve got a little bit of politics and government in my blood. There are things that interest me, things, sometimes, that I see happen that anger me, and I think I can be part of the conversation.”
Gearheart said, if elected, he plans to push for tax reform on several fronts, including changes to current state taxes on individual income, corporations, and fuel.
“The gas tax for (Bluefield area businesses) is a major inhibitor. We’ve bonded out that last increase on the gas tax, so it’s going to be really difficult to deal with that, but I know the folks in Mercer County are really, really interested in developing Exit 1 (on Interstate 77), and that’s almost impossible without being able to have some kind of a fuel stop for the traveling public. And it’s just so easy to drive a mile into Virginia and buy that gas 20-25 cents cheaper,” he said.
According to Gearheart, the failure by the West Virginia Legislature to reach an agreement on education reform earlier this year was indicative of a partisan atmosphere that has caused a measure of dysfunction and paralysis within state government.
“I am not certain that anyone handled that circumstance very well. I have known (West Virginia Senate President) Mitch Carmichael for many, many years but he basically laid a gauntlet down and sort of punched the union folks in the mouth, a little bit. And usually, that’s not a good way to govern, a good way to get things passed,” said Gearheart.
“By the same token, the education union, it seems to me, they’ve made a great big deal out of what were really, really small issues. I know charter schools was a big part of the debate, going back and forth, but they affect a very minuscule number of the population of students. Really surprised me to find the union willing to walk away from a five percent raise, in exchange for a very small issue that would affect a very small number of students.”
Gearheart, a longtime resident of Bluefield, is a business owner and former middle school teacher. He received an undergraduate degree in Education from Concord College (later Concord University) in 1983.
The district was represented last year by Republicans John Shott, Eric Porterfield and Joe Ellington.