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Six vie for open magistrate seat

Apr. 26, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Six Democrats are vying for one unexpired term as Cabell County magistrate in this year's elections.

The top votegetter from the May 13 West Virginia primary will advance and run unopposed by Republicans in November, all but assuring election to the office unless a certified write-in candidate would surface, according to the Cabell County Clerk's Office.

The Democratic candidates are Rondall "Ron" Baumgardner, John Dennison, Gregory Lawson, Brittany McIntyre, Johnny Ray Rice and Opal Sanders. They are campaigning to fill the unexpired term of former Magistrate Patty Verbage-Spence. She resigned last May due to illness. The unexpired term runs through 2016.

Magistrates issue arrest and search warrants, hear misdemeanor cases, conduct preliminary examinations in felony cases and hear civil cases with $5,000 or less in dispute. Magistrates also issue emergency protective orders in cases involving domestic violence. The salary is $57,500 year.

Here is information on the backgrounds of the Democratic candidates, listed in alphabetical order, based largely upon information each provided in answering a questionnaire provided by The Herald-Dispatch.

BAUMGARDNER: The 63-year-old has been serving as Verbage-Spence's appointed replacement since June 2013. He enters the primary as the only candidate with experience as magistrate, however his appointment to the the unexpired post drew the ire of Democratic leaders last summer.

Baumgardner, an elected Republican magistrate from 2009 through 2012, lost his bid for re-election in November 2012, finishing eighth behind the Democrats' slate of seven candidates. He changed his party affiliation two days later, his first such modification since he registered to vote in April 1980.

The switch made Baumgardner eligible for appointment as magistrate should a vacancy occur because state law requires circuit judges to appoint a person of the same political party as the office-holder being replaced.

If elected, Baumgardner would retain the Verbage-Spence seat as he approaches five years of experience as magistrate. He touted that experience as setting him apart from his opponents. His education includes Barboursville High School, Marshall University and training from the West Virginia Supreme Court for magistrates.

Baumgardner previously worked in quality control at Allied Warehousing, along with sales experience at Blue Springs Hatchery, McNeil Fence Company and Huntington Awning and Patio Shop. He is a member of Elk's Lodge 313 and an active bowler, including a prior stint as state president of the U.S. Bowling Congress.

Baumgardner's campaign finished early April with $614.19 cash on hand, after having received $1,080 from 13 people with a beginning balance of $35.19, according to the campaign's first finance report. It showed $501 in expenditures.

DENNISON: The 42-year-old from Huntington graduated from Huntington High School and Marshall University, where he received a bachelor's degree in business administration, marketing and business management with a minor in criminal justice.

Dennison currently works in sales at The Herald-Dispatch with prior employment as an officer with the Milton Police Department. He belongs to Elk's Lodge 313 and various fraternal organizations, along with serving as a sports official and in various other roles in local youth athletics.

Dennison touted his education and experience as traits that set him apart and bring balance and fairness to the office.

Dennison's campaign finished early April with $2,058 cash on hand, after having received $3,058 from 18 people. The report showed $1,000 in expenditures.

LAWSON: The 60-year-old from Barboursville graduated from Milton High School.

Lawson retired from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, where he served as a drug interdiction agent and a director of operations at the nation's southern border. He touted his dedication to law enforcement as a trait that sets him apart.

Lawson also belongs to the American Legion and the Governor's Substance Abuse Task Force.

Lawson's campaign had a zero balance as of early April, after having received $2,200 from a single person and having spent the same amount.

McINTYRE: The candidate neither returned a questionnaire to The Herald-Dispatch nor filed a campaign finance report with the Cabell County Clerk's Office.

RICE: The 49-year-old from Huntington graduated from Barboursville High School and attended Marshall University.

Rice currently manages his parents' rental property and teaches martial arts. He has volunteered for 28 years to train and teach students at Master Kim's Tae Kwon Do. He touted a life spent watching his father's service as magistrate as setting him apart.

Rice's campaign had a zero balance as of early April, after having received $575 in contributions from a single person and having spent the same amount.

SANDERS: The 53-year-old from Huntington graduated from Milton High School. She has received training in paralegal work and as a former assistant in magistrate court.

Sanders currently works as an independent paralegal on an as-needed basis. She previously worked as a teacher's assistant and emergency dispatcher.

Sanders spent time volunteering with church activities as well as service with various groups in the Tri-State.

Sanders' campaign had a zero balance as of early April, after having received $575 in contributions from three people and having spent the same amount.

Follow reporter Curtis Johnson at Facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD and via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD.

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