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HUNTINGTON — Two Democrats are facing off during this year’s primary election for the office of West Virginia attorney general and a chance to face incumbent Republican Patrick Morrisey, who is running unopposed.

Either Isaac Sponaugle or Sam Petsonk will move on to the general election in November.

Sponaugle is from Franklin, West Virginia, and graduated from WVU School of Business in 2001 and WVU School of Law in 2004.

“I’m a partner in the Sponaugle & Sponaugle law firm,” Sponaugle said. “I’m a member of the state House of Delegates. I’m the current minority deputy whip and have served four consecutive terms as a delegate. I was elected to serve a four-year term on the West Virginia Democratic Executive Committee in 2010. I was elected chairman of the Pendleton County Democratic Executive Committee in 2011, which office I still hold presently.”

Sponaugle says he wants to stop what he called “Morrisey’s attack on our health care system.”

“As attorney general, he is suing the federal government to end the Affordable Care Act,” Sponaugle said. “If he is successful, then preexisting conditions may result in people losing their health insurance. If you had or get cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure or even diabetes, then you have a preexisting condition. He wants to either cancel or increase the cost of your health insurance over it. Additionally, West Virginia will lose more than $1 billion annually from the federal government. This is unacceptable and needs to stop immediately.”

Sponaugle says his experience makes him the candidate for the job.

“I’ve tried hundreds of cases before juries and judges. I’ve argued before the West Virginia Supreme Court. I’m a small-business owner,” he said. “I’ve been elected four consecutive terms to the state Legislature as a Democrat from an Eastern Panhandle district. I’ve been endorsed by West Virginia AFL-CIO, AFT-WV, WVEA, USW, SEIU, CWA, Teamsters, and over 40 building and trades unions. I’m the only Democratic candidate that can beat Patrick Morrisey.”

Petsonk is a Monongalia County native and ninth-generation West Virginian.

“I served several years as a legislative assistant advising U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Carte Goodwin on labor and energy policy, working to strengthen federal laws protecting working people and diversifying our economy,” Petsonk said. “I established and led an employment law program for nonprofit legal services, securing millions of dollars in judgments for working families — including hundreds of coal miners who have faced layoffs, black lung, loss of insurance and unsafe work conditions. I also served in the AmeriCorps VISTA program in Mullens, leading efforts on community health, local land use planning and economic development.”

Petsonk says right now, the top job for the attorney general is protecting the state’s people during the COVID-19 crisis and the economic reopening.

“The attorney general always serves as the people’s lawyer, protecting consumers, workers, the disabled and victims of discrimination,” he said. “Those duties are especially critical while we’re bringing people back into the workplace and attempting to reopen the economy. It’s the attorney general’s job to protect public health and safety in our workplaces and to ensure fair competition for small businesses. If we don’t have capable and aggressive leadership from our attorney general, we could face a new wave of infections and an economic catastrophe of greater proportions.”

Petsonk added that his career has focused on protecting health care, public education, support for long-term recovery from substance use disorder, and defending workers’ health and safety.

“That is exactly the experience that counts the most right now, and truly what we need to be seeing in our attorney general’s office during the COVID-19 crisis and economic reopening,” he said.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.

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