WHEELING - Two candidates for statewide office met with voters in Wheeling on Wednesday.
Republicans Kent Leonhardt, candidate for commissioner of agriculture, and Brian Savilla, candidate for secretary of state, addressed issues posed by residents during the "Penny for Your Thoughts" election forum Wednesday night hosted by the Ohio County GOP.
Leonhardt retired as a lieutenant colonel after 20 years in the Marines and now lives and works on a farm in western Monongalia County. He said the safety and security of the state's food supply are his top priorities.
Photo by Joselyn King
Kent Leonhardt, left, Republican candidate for West Virginia commissioner of agriculture, and Brian Savilla, Republican candidate for secretary of state, converse during the “Penny for Your Thoughts” election forum Wednesday.
Savilla, meanwhile, represents Putnam County in the House of Delegates and works as a substitute teacher. He said he favors voter identification in West Virginia and believe the process adds extra security to the elections process.
"It does not disenfranchise anyone," Savilla said. "It's the farthest thing from racist. Anyone can get a voter ID. There's different ways to get it done. ...
"The current secretary of state (Natalie Tennant) and the Department of Justice are trying to make it easier for everybody to vote, and that is not the answer," he continued. "It's more about safety and security, and sometimes security has more difficult standards. I don't think we should appease people who are too lazy to go get a voter ID or too lazy to go vote - especially when we have early voting."
Residents have ample opportunity to vote in West Virginia, he added.
"People need to exercise that liberty and privilege instead of government trying to water down that system," Savilla added.
Savilla also opposes Internet voting, voting by mail and same day voter registration.
In his remarks, Leonhardt noted there are ways the farming industry can seize upon opportunities produced by the state's growing natural gas industry.
"We have all this natural gas, and we are exporting it more than we are using it," he told those present. "How about a nitrogen-based fertilizer plant here? Eighty percent of nitrogen fertilizer is natural gas. So why are we importing nitrogen fertilizer from overseas?
"We could look at having a fertilizer plant. Pipe it (natural gas) right to the plant. Have it made there and distributed from there," he said.
Having a "business friendly" atmosphere in West Virginia would be necessary to attract the necessary investment, Leonhardt acknowledged.
"But look at the jobs we could create," he said. "We could increase the revenue of the gas well producers. Some of the landowners right now aren't really getting anything for what is coming out of the ground."
The "Penny for Your Thoughts" political forums now are taking place at the Ohio County GOP headquarters, located within the McArdle Law Office, 2139 Market St.
The next forum is set for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 19, with Patrick Morrisey, candidate for attorney general, and Mike Hall, candidate for treasurer.