HUNTINGTON — Two men who have served their state and country are now competing for a chance to serve their community in Charleston.
Republicans Charles “Chad” Shaffer, 68, of Kenova, and Glendon Watts, of Huntington, are both hoping to be able to take on Democrat incumbent Bob Plymale, who has represented the West Virginia Senate District 5 since 1992. Republican voters in District 5 must choose between one of the two men during the June 9 rescheduled primary election.
District 5 includes all of Cabell County and the northern portion of Wayne County. Democrat Mike Woelfel, who was re-elected last year, holds the second seat in the district.
Both Shaffer and Watts agree the top issue for the area is addiction.
Shaffer, a former West Virginia State Police trooper and ordained minister, is the founder of Drug Prevention Ministries, a current missionary to the Tri-State for those with substance use disorder and their families.
He said the way the state is tackling addiction is not feasible. As example, he pointed to a program in the regional jails that provides a Vivitrol shot to inmates with substance use disorder. Vivitrol, or naltrexone, is a monthly shot that stops opioid receptors in the brain from firing, helping with cravings and withdrawal from opioids.
Shaffer said at about $1,000 an injection, it doesn’t make financial sense for the state. However, according to a spokesperson for the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation said the shots are either covered by grant or by the manufacturer of the medicine. Medication-assisted treatment, such as Suboxone, is also provided on a case-by-case basis.
“How is it benefiting those who are incarcerated?” Shaffer said. “They are still dependent on a drug. I disagree with that type of approach.”
Watts, a U.S. Army veteran, drafter and former private investigator, said he doesn’t presume to know more about addiction than Shaffer, but he doesn’t think growing government is the solution.
“Why don’t we find a way to clear a path for charitable organizations or 501(c)(3)s for the creation of programs and take care of the problem?” he said.
Watts pointed to syringe exchanges programs as government failure.
“We are aiding (drug users),” he said. “That needs to come to an end.”
Limitations on the Cabell-Huntington Health Department’s harm reduction program, including the syringe exchange, have been found to exacerbate the HIV outbreak in the county.
Watts said his top priority if sent to Charleston would be deregulation of the state, which he says is the first big step needed to get West Virginia “back in the race.” He said the entire state code needs to be reviewed and the fat cut.
“Through deregulation we can lower taxes, get rid of bureaucracy and return more power back to the people and local governments,” he said. “I think the economy would flourish here.”
Shaffer said the tax structure needs to be changed to be more acceptable to businesses. He said more business is leaving than is coming in.
Shaffer said term limits are his second-most important issue. He said he supports two terms for the Senate and four terms for the House of Delegates, though he would also support one six-year term for senators.
“Some like to stay for a long time and they get complacent,” he said. “It breeds corruption.”
Watts said he wants to put an end to “cronyism” and backroom deals. He said transparency was very important to him.
“We have to be vocal,” Watts said. “We need to put some sort of mechanism in place where by people can get access to what is going on. I don’t care if it’s a ticker on The Herald-Dispatch. Feed it real time to the people so they can see where the money is spent so people can see what is going on in government.”
Watts said he wants to be a voice for the people who feel their voice hasn’t been heard in a long time.
“I am a divorced father of three. I know struggle,” he said. “I know what everyone out there is going through. I think through that prism, I have a better understanding of what it will take for our region to rise above.”
Shaffer also said he wants to be accountable to the public and will do his best to further the public’s agenda, thoughts and values.
“One thing I always see, it seems like (a) break in communication from Capitol and the citizens,” Shaffer said. “I want to communicate via Facebook and Twitter and media as to what is going on in the Capitol every day to get input.”
The primary election in West Virginia is June 9. Polls open for in-person voting at 6 a.m. Early voting is currently ongoing and applications to vote by absentee ballot must be received by the county clerk by June 3.