HUNTINGTON — Cabell County Democrats must select three candidates Tuesday to represent the party in the general election for House of Delegates District 16.
The 16th District comprises most of Huntington and eastern Cabell County, excluding Barboursville, and a portion of Lincoln County. It has three seats currently held by Democrat Sean Hornbuckle and Republicans Daniel Linville and John Mandt Jr.
The five candidates in the upcoming primary come from a range of backgrounds.
Incumbent Hornbuckle, 34, of Huntington, is a financial adviser. He has held his seat in the House of Delegates for six years. He is the current minority chairman of the Education Committee.
Taking on Hornbuckle are 39-year-old Huntington real estate agent Anna Lewis, 67-year-old Huntington City Councilwoman Carol Polan, 69-year-old Milton write-in candidate Noel Jordan and 30-year-old Huntington videographer Dakota Nelson.
Several of the candidates said the economy and recovering from the pandemic were among their top priorities.
Hornbuckle said he honestly couldn’t say what his priorities will be for 2021, but he knows helping people and small businesses recover from the pandemic will be one. As always, he said, he will continue to stand for social justice and equality, particularly in education and health care.
He said he plans to spend the rest of the year listening to what needs done from his constituents who have survived the pandemic and the civil unrest in the country.
“I just want to (know) how they’ve personally been affected,” Hornbuckle said, “whether it’s a small-business owner with the pandemic, an individual who lost their job or a part of the community that has been affected from systemic racism. I am trying to do the best I can for all my constituents.”
Polan, currently the at-large representative on Huntington’s City Council, said her experience on City Council in 2017 dealing with the unfunded liability of the fire and police pensions will help her legislate during the pandemic.
“This caused uncertain times for our retirees who worried I’m sure not only about their income, but their health insurance, as well,” Polan said. “Under the clear, concise leadership of Mayor (Steve) Williams and the excellent city finance department, we turned the problem around. By 2018, the problem was under control, and the funds have been paid on time as required by state law in 2019 and 2020. My service on the Finance Committee has been an invaluable learning experience and helps prepare me for legislative service.”
Other issues for Polan include education and the environment.
Nelson also said the economy is one of his top priorities, saying the future is green.
“When we spend money creating good paying jobs necessary to build the solar panels we need, revamp water lines, build safe bridges and repair roads that get us home safe, that makes our state better for business, health and happiness,” Nelson said. “Again, we get this done by making a sound case to the people on the real benefits of investing in our state.”
He said revamping the tax code so corporations don’t take profits out of the state is one way to do this.
Both Lewis and Jordan believe the future economy is green, as well, though a different type of green — hemp and cannabis. Hornbuckle has also been a leader in passing the medical cannabis law in the state.
Lewis said the development of hemp and cannabis production could be a great market for Cabell County, which has farmland and manufacturing locations.
“I would love to grow this industry and earmark the tax revenue for public education,” Lewis said. “Cannabis stands to create the same industry employment and investment opportunities. While at this point West Virginia will be playing catch-up to the 31 states already benefiting from the industry, we can still participate and profit from the healthful alternatives if we move quickly.”
Lewis said investing in better education outcomes and expanding broadband internet access are other top priorities for her.
Jordan, who could not be reached for comment, said in his candidate survey in The Herald-Dispatch that medical cannabis could help diversify the economy of all of southern West Virginia.
“This would include the construction of processing plants to gain the full impact of this industry,“ he said. “In addition, tax and economic incentives to attract other businesses.”
Jordan said he also believes in health care for all West Virginians.
The primary election is Tuesday, June 9. Early voting is ongoing at the Cabell County Courthouse.