RALEIGH COUNTY, W.Va. — The District 9 Senate race features a notable contrast between a seasoned political veteran and a newcomer to politics and government service.
Democratic nominee Bill Wooton is a familiar face to those who have followed the activities of the state legislature over the last four decades. His career in government includes serving as Majority Leader and Majority Whip in the House of Delegates during the 1980’s and as a state senator in District 27 in the 1990’s. He also was a candidate for the West Virginia Supreme Court in 2015. Prior to the start of his legislative career, Wooton was Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for Raleigh County and Assistant Attorney General for the state of West Virginia.
Wooton told MetroNews his decision to re-enter the political arena was motivated largely by the hardship he has witnessed in southern West Virginia in recent years.
“We’re in a desperate time right now, really, and I think at my stage in life I thought I’ve got to do this for the sake of my children and for the sake of the other young people in the area,” he said. “The biggest issue facing us is jobs that’s compounded by the opioid crisis which, in part, is a consequence of not having adequate good-paying jobs. I think that people with no hope turn to things like opioids,” he said.
Wooton said he doesn’t believe the jobs crisis in his district can be overcome by competing directly with other states or with other regions by offering incentives to companies or to other potential employers.
“We’re not going to win the competition for jobs with tax incentives. Whatever we come up with, other states are going to come up with more. We’ve got to do our share to be competitive but the bottom line is, we’ve got to have the infrastructure and the education,” said Wooton.
Republican nominee Rollan Roberts has been the senior pastor at Victory Baptist Church in Beaver since 1988. He also is an administrator and instructor at Victory Baptist Academy in Beaver. Over the years, Roberts has served on boards of directors for both national and state educational organizations. He describes himself as a conservative Christian seeking to protect traditional values, preserve liberty, and proclaim truth in high places.
Roberts told MetroNews he considers education to be a vital part of West Virginia’s infrastructure, and plans to make reform of the state’s educational system a top priority, if elected.
“I think teachers need to be put back in control of their classrooms. I think principals need to be put back in control of their schools. I think we need to back off of the government oversight, so much, give them their autonomy,” he said, adding, “So many of our (educational) outcomes are so low but the only thing we hear about is PEIA. My position is, let’s solve whatever needs to be done with the benefits and the insurance. Take care of the people that do the job. I’m 100% for that, but let’s not ignore what is also right in front of us. We’ve got some real weaknesses that need to be addressed.”
Roberts described his decision to run for the Senate as a “stepping stone process” that culminated with the resignation of Senator Jeff Mullins in January. The seat is currently held by Republican Lynne Arvon, a former member of the House of Delegates, who was appointed by Governor Justice, following Mullins’ resignation.
The 9th District includes Raleigh and Wyoming Counties, and part of McDowell County.