Political novices Democrat John Maxey and Republican Paul Espinosa, are running against each other to represent the new 66th Delegate District in what is, geographically, Jefferson County’s largest political jurisdiction.
Created by the state Legislature in a redistricting that gave Jefferson County its own three districts, the 66th, which covers the southern reaches of the county, is bordered by Loudoun County, Va., on the east, Clarke County, Va., on the south, Berkeley County, W.Va., on the west and in the north end nearly encircles the cities of Charles Town and Ranson.
Early voting for the Nov. 6 general election runs through Nov. 3, including Saturday Oct. 27 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
John Maxey, 56, said the 66th District is in the county’s most conservative area, but that doesn’t stop him from bringing his liberal message to voters there.
“This is a unique time in the Eastern Panhandle,” he said. “If we can elect an effective leadership team from the Eastern Panhandle, we can help to change the system in Charleston.”
West Virginia ranks close to the top in the country in the student spending while it remains in the bottom 15 percent in performance, he said.
“We shouldn’t cut what we’re spending, but we need to improve performance in the schools. We’re not getting our money’s worth,” he said.
Maxey said the same issue exists with West Virginia’s broadband Internet service, utilities and roads.
“We’re not getting our money’s worth,” he said. “Our Eastern Panhandle representatives have to see that we get what we’re paying for. We have power now because of our population and our new delegate districts.”
Maxey, at a candidates’ debate last week, said he supports expanding the daily commuter train system that carries hundreds of area workers to jobs in the Washington, D.C., area.
“We can’t afford not to,” he said. “It would cost a lot more to widen roads than expand the commuter service.”
Maxey said West Virginia’s coal industry is not declining because of the Obama administration regulations, which critics call the “War on Coal.” He said the rich seams have been mined out. “What’s left is what can be taken out through mountaintop removal. Power companies are switching from coal-powered plants to natural gas. It’s cheaper and burns clean. Coal is no longer competitive.”
The state’s economy can no longer depend on coal or casino gambling, he said. “West Virginia has to expand its economy and that effort must be led by the Eastern Panhandle.”
Maxey, a past chairman of the Jefferson County Planning Commission, owns Data Direct in Harpers Ferry.
It provides database support and analysis for nonprofit advocacy groups.
He and his wife, Theresa Choitos, live on Old Shenandoah Trail in Shannondale.
Republican Paul Espinosa, 50, comes to the ballot with extensive leadership experience stemming from his volunteer work in the county.
He is a past president of the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Commission and the Chamber of Commerce. He has served on the boards of the Jefferson County Development Authority and United Way of the Eastern Panhandle.
A fiscal conservative, Espinosa said he will champion economic growth and job creation in the county if he makes it to Charleston.
“I recognize that small businesses are critical to our economy. I’m confident West Virginia will realize the prosperity the rest of the nation enjoys as we become more competitive with our tax code, regulatory climate and legal system.”
He said the call to run for the House of Delegates surfaced as his children grew older. “I’ve thought about it over the years. Now I have the opportunity to serve. Jefferson County needs a fiscal conservative to represent the 66th District. Someone who can represent the values that most residents in the district hold,” he said.
Espinosa said he’s running a grass-roots campaign by talking to voters on their doorsteps.
“I’ve been gratified by their response. My message about fiscal conservatism, limited government and controlling spending is resonating with them,” he said.
Another Espinosa issue concerns what he calls the tight grip the state holds over local school districts. A finding in a recent audit on education efficiency found that no other school system in the United States is more insulated from local control, he said.
“West Virginia is the most regulated and centralized school system in the country,” he said. “Too much is dictated through the state code. Local school boards need more autonomy.”
The proposed U.S. 340 corridor from the Virginia line to Charles Town “is a significant issue for Jefferson County,” he said. “It’s a vital link to the county’s economic development.”
Espinosa is a regional manager for Frontier Communications.
He and his wife, Cathy, and their children, Paul, 23, Megan, 19 and Emma, 12, live in the Pembroke Grove development near Summit Point.
Members of West Virginia’s House of Delegates earn $20,000 for the two-month legislative session.
According to an Associated Press report, Maxey outraised raised Espinosa $16,200 to $4,000. Each candidate reported campaign balances of around $20,000 with Maxey slightly ahead after Espinosa loaned his campaign $10,000.