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NAME: Opal Sanders
CANDIDATE FOR: Cabell County Magistrate
PARTY: Nonpartisan race
CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: https://www.facebook.com/opalsanderswv/
HOME CITY: Huntington
HOME COUNTY: Cabell
EDUCATION: Milton High School; Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential; Associate of Arts, Paralegal, Marshall Community College (now Mountwest Community & Technical College).
CURRENT OFFICE OR OCCUPATION: Small Business Owner.
OTHER WORK HISTORY: Teacher, Davis Creek Elementary School; Magistrate Assistant, West Virginia State Supreme Court; Tax Deputy, Cabell County Sheriff’s office; Secretary, Cabell County Sheriff’s office; Dispatcher, Cabell County 911.
CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS: Huntington Area Chapter of AARP; Rotary Club; Former Vice-President, Tri-State Gospel Music Association.
FAMILY: Husband, Rodney Sanders Sr.; sons, Rodney Sanders Jr., Joshua Daniels, and Austin Sanders.
PERSONAL STATEMENT: Since my early days as a Teacher, I have always focused on serving the people of West Virginia. The citizens of Cabell County want and deserve a Magistrate who will put people before politics, uphold our Constitution, and restore transparency and accountability in our government. Our citizens want safer streets and fair, equal justice for all who enter our court system. One should not be judged based on the size of their bank account or who they know, but by the quality of their character and the size of their heart. I humbly ask for your vote.
1. What steps might improve the workings of the courts?
Magistrate Courts are regulated by Chapter 50 of the State Code and administrative rules passed by the Supreme Court. Significant changes, of course, would require action by the legislature. I support a pilot program that would expand our ability to conduct video arraignments with law enforcement agencies. This will save taxpayers money and put more cops on the streets.
2. Do you believe you have the temperament to be on the bench? Explain.
The citizens of Cabell County want a Magistrate who will put people before politics, uphold our Constitution, and return a sense of transparency and accountability in our government. Likewise, I will enforce the West Virginia Governmental Ethics Act, and I promise to exercise judicial disqualification in any case where I may have a conflict of interest.
3. How do you feel about accepting contributions to your campaign? Do you feel this creates a conflict of interest or an appearance of impropriety if you are elected?
Currently, individuals can donate up to $2,800 per election year, per campaign. As a Magistrate, you cannot accept $2,800 from an individual and not owe them something. I serve the people of Cabell County – not those who can afford to contribute to my campaign. In turn, my campaign is entirely self-funded.
4. Would you favor or oppose a system in which all sentencing decisions were routinely reported in the local paper, indexed by the name of the judge? Explain why or why not.
This is a legislative question, since it would involve a revision in the Code along with additional funding in the budget. Currently, the vast majority of court records are public information. I would support expanding the number of open access terminals in our Magistrate Court Clerk's office.
5. What do you believe to be the root causes for the high numbers of juvenile offenders? What changes can the court system make to reduce these numbers?
As a former School Teacher, I have dealt with this issue first-hand. This issue is complex and must be dealt with on all levels. In my experience, juvenile offenders are a result of school problems, economic problems, issues with home-life, and substance use disorder. We need more social workers, and we must look at each child from a holistic perspective.
6. What kinds of experience do you have with law enforcement or the law profession?
Magistrate Courts handle both criminal and civil cases. I have received training from the West Virginia State Supreme Court, and I have experience working under the directive of the Chief Deputy to the Cabell County Sheriff.
7. How would you weigh addressing the growing jail population with public safety?
We have made extraordinary strides in the right direction on this issue in Cabell County, thanks to new technology in the home incarceration program. Jails are meant for dangerous and violent offenders -- and I will make sure that these offenders are kept off our streets.