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NAME: Dakota Nelson
CANDIDATE FOR: West Virginia House of Delegates District 16 (Covers parts of Cabell and Lincoln counties)
CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: DakotaInTheHouse.com
HOME CITY: Huntington
HOME COUNTY: Cabell
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in Political Science – Marshall University
CURRENT OFFICE OR OCCUPATION: I am the proud owner of a local small business.
OTHER WORK HISTORY: One full year of service in Americorps- 1,700 hours of volunteer work in food banks and education programs. Union organizing to help give a voice to working-people. Community organizing that includes getting reverse osmosis water filtration systems installed in three after-school programs, community beautification, as well as leading food and clothing drives.
CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS: Walk Uh Block Community Cleanup. Cabell County Working Families.
FAMILY: Two rescue pups, Maya & Leo, from Cabell Wayne animal shelter.
PERSONAL STATEMENT: I grew up in poverty, always moving, never having all the utilities on at once, and knowing well the feeling of hunger. I know the cost of leaving working-people behind in favor of corporate profits. We need the kind of leaders willing to own the truth, that things are not OK. Our paychecks do not deliver the wages we need to thrive. The relationship between corporate America and our government is toxic and fundamentally dangerous to our future. I am endorsed by educators from both AFT and WVEA, United Steelworkers, AFL-CIO, UMWA, Sierra Club, LAWPAC and more.
Questions from the West Virginia League of Women Voters:
1. With the decline in the extraction industries in West Virginia, what do you think should be done to diversify the state’s economy?
To shift our economy, we need leaders who are not bought and paid for by the extraction industry. Delegates John Mandt & Linville receive large donations from several leaders in these industries. They both take big checks from AEP, Murray Energy, and our coal baron Governor, Jim Justice. We can not count on that behavior to lead us forward.
2. Do you support recent weakening of EPA regulations concerning air and water quality? Why or why not?
No. It is a mistake to think that we have to choose between big business that comes with a toxic living environment or starvation. Bottom line, our babies need clean water to drink and safe air to breathe. Therefore, you better believe I will not accept less than safe and adequate measures regarding either of those major necessities for life.
3. What role do you see for state government in reversing West Virginia’s population decline?
We have to start by fully funding education. We cannot expect first rate results with third rate funding. A robust school system means more families with stronger roots and futures staying in our communities. If we prioritize small business loans over corporate giveaways, more talented folks from other states will settle down and start families here that grow our economy.
Questions from The Herald-Dispatch:
4. The state’s foster care system struggles to care for the 7,000 plus children who are now in it. Some action has been taken in recent months, but what further action do you think might be necessary?
Given the rippling effects of the opioid crisis, our government spending must rise to the increased challenge of taking care of those children dependent on the foster system for a future. Before we can talk remedies, we must have leaders who consider the children in the foster care system to be important enough to invest in.
5. There have been several attempts to reduce taxes on business in the state, including one failed in this past legislative session. Is it wise to keep pursuing tax breaks for business, at the possible expense of residential taxpayers? Do you think the state’s tax structure needs an overhaul?
Since 2006, there have been several tax breaks for big business with the usual promise that it would trickle down. It has not, and we remain in 50th. Simple truth is that we have a tax system that favors the “now” of corporate greed, rather than the “long-term” of a healthy business model for our state.
6. Do you think the educational reform bill passed in 2019 is working/will be effective?
No. I am endorsed by the West Virginia Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. I can assure you, they did not endorse me with the belief I would accept such halfhearted attempts to lift up education in our state. Let’s talk about smaller class sizes, increased trauma resources, along with increased and diversified staffing.
7. How would you describe efforts so far to add more support staff in the state’s schools to help children in troubled homes?
We obviously need to continue to grow and evolve or efforts to support our youth. Our young are innocent and not to blame for where they find themselves. Thankfully, this is a matter that can be naturally remedied with resources. We have to have the courage to stand up and act on behalf of our state’s most vulnerable.
8. What can the state government do to improve workforce development in West Virginia?
These solutions would likely need to come on a regional level. A fix-all answer is shiny and appealing, but our state is more diverse than that. A workforce in Milton is going to be a bit different than those in the northeast part of the state. In general, we need a better working environment for our workers. Get rid of “Right to Work” laws.
9. West Virginia has been especially hard hit by the opioid abuse epidemic. What do you see as the role of the legislature in addressing this crisis?
We have to have the funding capable of matching the need. The needs created by this crisis are diverse and the funded approaches to heal our communities will need to be as well. To do this, we start by taxing pharmaceutical companies per Mg that they distribute in our state.
10. How would you improve the state’s access to broadband internet?
I would like it to be a public utility. Our state population is spread out in a way that makes it unappealing to the private sector to provide services in areas that cannot lead to large enough profits. We need not leave ourselves dependent on access. We must create it.
NEW QUESTIONS FOR THE GENERAL ELECTION
11. How would you prioritize using the funds provided to WV by the CARES Act and other COVID-19 relief funds?
First and foremost, our healthcare workers and other frontline workers should receive hero pay for working during a time deemed to be dangerous. We must also take care of those put out of work and invest in our small businesses being hit the hardest. Our teachers need proper supplies and our students and families need extra support with the technology.
12. What changes in current election laws would you favor to make voting safer and more accessible?
Early voting is key to making the right to vote more accessible. Continuing the vital early voting location on Marshall’s campus is a big win locally. Thank you to Austin Sanders and others for their hard work to make that possible. Let us continue to spring up more early voting spots to encourage more democracy.
13. Lack of broadband access limits employment and educational opportunities in many parts of West Virginia. What should be done to make broadband available statewide?
Once we agree that broadband is basic infrastructure, then we make it a priority in our budget. By contracting West Virginia companies to do infrastructure work, we keep the money within our state economy, and we have workers invested in the jobs that they are doing. Internet, solar, and hemp are among those industries we need homegrown investment in.
14. Given COVID-19, how do you propose we protect our students, teachers and school service personnel while at the same time providing equal access to a quality education across the state?
We must use strong portions of federal pandemic monies on making sure that our schools are not treated like an alternate reality show where Covid doesn’t exist. Next, we must reverse the hundreds of millions in tax breaks for out-of-state corporations. Our budget has lost hundreds of millions that should be available to our public schools this moment.
15. What experience, training or education do you have that would make you an effective state legislator?
As a person who grew up poor and worked my way into the working class, I know struggle. I have lived it, felt it in my bones. Rather than give up, I got a degree in political science. I started a small business and invested my life here in our hills. I will lead with goals and governance, not division.