HUNTINGTON — Redistricting in West Virginia has led to two friends and colleagues in the House of Delegates facing off against each other in the May primary for a seat in the District 27 race.
Incumbent Democrats Chad Lovejoy and Ric Griffith are running against each other in the May 10 West Virginia primary race. The winner will face Republican Jeff Maynard in the Nov. 8 general election. Maynard is running unopposed for May’s primary.
The men said the position they have been put in due to redistricting is disappointing. Griffith said the two have agreed to support the winner in the general election to preserve the Democratic seat in the House.
Lovejoy, who is in his third term, said he has sponsored or cosponsored 70 bills that have been signed into law. He said if re-elected, he hopes to continue building relationships across the aisle to work on issues he knows can be addressed.
“For someone in the minority, I think that shows you can work with people to get things done because you can’t pass anything on your own,” he said. “I’ve tried to work and build relationships across the aisle and across the state and I think that’s why I’m able to get bills passed.”
Griffith, who is wrapping up his first term in the House, said the job has been rewarding and frustrating. While he said he met wonderful people on both sides of the aisle, he was frustrated by certain bills thought he would pass, but didn’t, and others he thought were unhelpful to the progress of the state.
He said with more than $4 billion in American Rescue Plan money and $6 billion coming in federal infrastructure monies, he believes the state could be at a turning point.
“I’m hoping to correct some of the shortcomings that have been responsible for our stagnant economic growth and population loss,” he said. “And I actually feel that we need to be good stewards of that money because it’s literally a once in a generation opportunity.”
Lovejoy said he has spent his time focused on first responders and food insecurity, which he said are important to his community. Some of those bills include the passage of a first responders’ post-traumatic stress disorder bill and pension protection act, as well as cancer prevention for firefighters.
He also pointed to the shared table bill to save food schools were throwing out and the emergency school food act passed earlier this year to help feed children outside of school hours.
“Those are examples of working with people and picking areas where there is consensus to achieve measurable, tangible outcomes,” he said.
The father of four said he wants to work to develop jobs that will give the next generation options and the ability to stay in the state. He said the Legislature has largely focused on industry in recent years, but the state has to have more than fossil fuel industries.
He said passing bills to encourage Mason County’s Nucor steel mill and an electric bus company in Charleston are a step in the right direction, as is the passage of the film tax credit, but efforts should focus on smaller niche areas that could make more of an impact in numbers.
“At this point, you have a record and you know, you kind of hope that says something about what you would do, what you have done and what you will do,” he said. “Steve Williams always says you never let being in the minority be an excuse for not delivering something. And I say it’s harder, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. You’ve just got to work harder.”
Griffith said he knows several people who have moved out of the state for economic reasons. He said West Virginia has the lowest return rate of any state for veterans discharged from the military, which he said is a tremendous loss to the skilled labor workforce. He would like to give veterans a reason to return, maybe through tax incentives or scholarships.
He said there needs to be thoughtful, evidence-based approaches to each subject and he has been upset that some of the bills have been passed without adequate research or thought.
Griffith said he was disappointed in the foster care bill that did not pass in the 2022 regular session, which he said was a disappointment to the 6,200 children in the state who are in the foster care system. He also was disappointed a bill did not pass to provide aids to classrooms for students from grades kindergarten to third to help children during a critical period in their education.
“So there were things like that that I’m disappointed about, but I’m excited about the possibilities with the federal monies that we have,” he said. “I’m hopeful that in this next session we will really address some of these issues that are good bills that failed.”
With those things on his mind to fix, Griffith, who also owns a pharmacy in Kenova, said he would like to see pharmacy-related bills pass, including one to require explanation of the purpose of a medication on a prescription label, which he believes can help seniors and people diagnosed with dementia.