MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – The 16th District Senatorial race in the Eastern Panhandle has had a lot of outside money thrown at it on both sides. Ads that are not sanctioned by candidates are slinging some mud, and both candidates distanced themselves and defended their records in interviews recently with MetroNews affiliate “The Panhandle News Network.”
Incumbent Senator Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, was elected to the seat four years ago and has advocated for school choice and protections for special-needs children.
She said the voters she talks to don’t buy into what the attack ads are saying about her and her record on campaign finance reform.
“The campaign finance reform that we passed encouraged more funding for candidates directly which all has to be transparent and put on the Secretary of State’s website,” Rucker said. “We actually increased that amount so that there would be less need for the PACs and things like that.”
Rucker said political action committees must now file reports more often.
As for why voters should give her another shot:
“I say what I do and I do what I say. I have kept my promises. When folks reach out to me, I respond and I try to find solutions, and I find ways of getting it through the legislature,” Rucker said. “I have found that I’m really good at working with others and of getting creative ideas of passing things that have not gotten through before.”
Rucker talked about her advocacy for school choice and said she’s concerned about how businesses have been impacted by closures during the pandemic.
For his part, Democratic challenger Pete Dougherty said his candidacy is a continuation of years of public service as a magistrate, probation officer, and sheriff in Jefferson County.
Dougherty decried what he called ‘dark-money’ ads that attempt to tie him to child pornography.
“I’ve had a smear campaign going against me by dark-money people, including that I’m somehow involved in child pornography and not doing enough about it,” he said. “The truth of the matter is that there’s no sheriff’s department in the state of West Virginia that has done more (to catch child pornographers).”
Dougherty if elected he would focus on roads, broadband, and help turn the state away from what he considers some wrong turns in the areas of public education and criminal reform.
“I mean there are votes that have been taken that give drug dealers the ability to keep their ill-gotten money and use it to defend themselves against the crimes that they’re guilty of,” he said.
Dougherty is finishing up his second term as sheriff after being appointed to the position in 2013. He previously served as a magistrate and president of the Jefferson County School Board.
The 16th Senatorial District includes parts of both Jefferson and Berkeley counties.