HUNTINGTON — Republicans in District 16 in Cabell County must cut one candidate’s campaign short Tuesday as they select three Republican candidates to run in the November general election.
The West Virginia House of Delegates District 16 includes most of Huntington and eastern Cabell County, with the exception of Barboursville, and a portion of Lincoln County. It has three seats, currently held by Republican incumbents Daniel Linville and John Mandt Jr. and Democratic incumbent Sean Hornbuckle.
The two Republican incumbents are each finishing their first term as lawmakers.
Linville, 30, of Milton, is an IT director. In the Legislature, he is a member of the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council and serves as vice chairman of the Committee on Technology and Infrastructure.
Mandt, 57, of Huntington, is the owner of Stewarts Original Hot Dogs. In the Legislature, he serves as an assistant majority whip and vice chairman of the Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Committee.
A Huntington city councilman and Marshall University student body senator join the pair in the race.
Mark Bates, 56, of Huntington, is the owner of Price King Rent-A-Car and a three-term member of the Huntington City Council, where he served as chairman, vice chairman and chairman of the Finance Committee.
Jakob Jitima, 20, of Ona, is a current Marshall University student studying pre-medicine. He is a member of the university Student Government Association.
Linville laid out three top priorities and plans to match. He said economic recovery from the pandemic will be a priority for all. He also plans to continue to push for broadband expansion in the area, which he said the need for is ever present because of the pandemic moving school and work online.
Linville pushed two large broadband expansion bills over his first two sessions. He said things were left out of this year’s bill that he would like to see pass, including a measure that would provide some backing for companies to do broadband projects in the state.
He said he is also working on developing a plan to possibly lay broadband fiber along the state’s waterways, which he believes would be more financially viable for companies.
“Nobody has tried this in the country that I know of,” Linville said.
Bates said due to the pandemic and being new to the Legislature, he isn’t sure what his priorities would be, but he knows his experience gives him the ability to listen and figure it out quickly. He said he is constituent-friendly and that is what gives him an edge.
“What I am hearing from folks in the community and in business and labor is they want a representative that will listen and they can have access to,” he said. “That might be somewhat lacking now in some respects.”
Bates said he would like to continue to serve his community now that he can no longer serve on City Council. But he said if constituents are happy with incumbents, they should send them back.
“If not, maybe try me,” he said.
Mandt and Jitima were not able to be reached for comment.
Mandt had a crash course in politics over his first two sessions, being the subject of a protest just a few weeks into his first session. But he has said he learned a lot from it, which is why he chose to run again.
In his survey with The Herald-Dispatch, Mandt said he was a supporter of broadband expansion and continuing to support public education. He also said a bill to further develop the state’s medical cannabis program was something he wanted the Legislature to explore more in the next session.
“A bill was discharged from committee to be voted on in the House Chamber, but it wasn’t nearly ready,” he said. “I don’t think any bill should be discharged from committee as that process is valuable. Doctors are very hesitant to prescribe opioids for pain these days.”
Jitima, in his Herald-Dispatch survey, said he felt the Legislature needed more young faces who will be accountable for their decisions for decades.
He said he supports diversifying the economy with renewable energy and lower taxes for citizens.
“West Virginia is not a suitable place right now for individual growth,” he said. “College students have little faith in their ability to succeed if they were to stay in West Virginia, and we need to change that by pushing community involvement, supporting small businesses and helping the disadvantaged.”
The primary election is Tuesday, June 9.