Editor’s Note: This is the second of two articles designed with the goal of assisting voters in making the most informed decision possible when choosing how to cast their vote. The first article provided an overview of the role a delegate plays in the West Virginia Legislature, as well as some background information on both Del. Lavender-Bowe and Major Longanacre. The previous article can be viewed here.
It should be noted that in the previous article it was incorrectly stated that there are four candidates running to fill three positions. While there are four candidates, there are, in fact, two positions to be filled. This error was made in the print-version which ran in the Wednesday, October 28 edition. The online-version was corrected prior to publication, and an editor’s note was added acknowledging the error.
In just a few short days, West Virginians will cast their final vote for the next crop of lawmakers to occupy the House of Delegates. Among the names listed on the ballot are Delegate Cindy Lavender-Bowe and Major Todd Longanacre. Both candidates have taken time during the final days of their respective campaigns to work together in an effort to offer voters a better understanding of who they are as leaders within the community, and what their respective visions for the Greenbrier Valley will be as delegates.
In this article, the candidates have provided their answers to four questions specifically applicable to residents and families living within the Greenbrier Valley. Both candidates have been asked the same four questions, and have provided their answers to the WV Daily News in written form so as not to be misconstrued or misrepresented.
The questions were provided to the candidates on the evening of Monday, October 26. Their answers were returned within 23 minutes of each other on the morning of Thursday, October 29. Neither candidate has seen the other’s answers prior to publication, nor have they responded directly to one another.
The West Virginia Daily News has not performed any verification as to the accuracy of either candidate’s answers. The statements made by the candidates are solely their own.
The candidate’s answers are presented here exactly as they have provided them.
QUESTION 1: W.Va. Attorney General Patrick Morrissey recently added West Virginia to TX. v. CA., the lawsuit which seeks to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Approximately 200,000 families in W.Va. receive their healthcare through the act, many of whom reside within the Greenbrier Valley. This would also remove protection against disqualification for pre-existing conditions, of which COVID-19 is now considered. Do you support Morrisey’s decision? Why or why not? Secondly, as delegate, what can/will you do to address the impact that overturning the ACA will have on both healthcare and the local economy once the legislative session begins in January?
ANSWER – Lavender-Bowe: “I do not support the AG’s decision to join this lawsuit. Overturning the ACA would be devastating to more than 200,000 W.Va. families.
I believe that affordable healthcare is a nonpartisan issue. All West Virginians deserve access to affordable healthcare, and I am passionate about ensuring everyone can afford the care they need. If the lawsuit is successful, 20 million Americans, including over 160,000 West Virginians, will lose their health coverage altogether and many more will be impacted by provisions of the ACA falling.
Under current federal law, insurance companies can’t refuse to cover treatment for pre-existing conditions or charge people more money because they have a pre-existing condition. We know that W.Va. has the highest rate in the nation of non-elderly adults with pre-existing conditions. 382,000 non-elderly West Virginians have a deniable pre-existing condition – that is 37% of our people. W.Va. needs to protect this coverage for our residents with these conditions to ensure that they have access to affordable health insurance coverage.
We must also not forget the possible financial impact on West Virginia’s economy. Reversing this law could result in the loss of over 15,000 jobs with 7,000 of those jobs in the healthcare sector. In W.Va., the ACA has improved access to care, financial security and health outcomes. Reversing the ACA would negatively impact all of these issues – especially during a time of a viral pandemic and an economic recession.
The joint platform of the democratic members of the WV House and Senate sets a clear goal of protecting coverage of pre-existing conditions for West Virginians. In 2020, we introduced a bill that would have protected those with pre-existing conditions. Moving forward into 2021, legislatively, we would have to act quickly to reintroduce the bill to prohibit health insurers from denying coverage for accident or sickness as a result of a pre-existing condition in the event the ACA is no longer enforceable.
Additionally, I would prioritize fixing PEIA for our public employees and fighting to ensure stabilized funding for the program. It is also important to protect the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in W.Va. and protect funding of this program. It is imperative to ensure our children will have access to basic healthcare like check-ups, immunizations and dental care – we know that this allows them to live happier lives, perform better in school and grow up to contribute to their communities.”
ANSWER – Longanacre: “I am not privy to the details within an ongoing and pending legal matter and will not speculate on what the AG’s lawsuit decision will or will not result in. However, I can tell you that I do support the AG’s right to challenge Obama-care on behalf of all West Virginians for the following three reasons:
The constitution states that ‘The powers not delegated to the United States by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.’ (See the 10th Amendment.) Healthcare is an individual state’s rights issue, and should never have even been proposed in the U.S. Congress to begin with. Individual state’s AGs have both the authority and the right to challenge it. Additionally, states are free to propose their own solutions to healthcare, or anything else not specifically addressed within the U.S. constitution, within their own individual state’s legislatures.
The reader will also recall that when the partisan Obamacare bill was forced through the U.S. Congress, it was done with the promise and assurance that ‘it would be optional and [our] current health insurance premiums will not be increased…not even by one dime.’ (Obama’s own words.) The American people were also told that this bill, which was already usurping the 10th Amendment in the eyes of many constitutional scholars, ‘would not be a tax.’ We would later find out that this was also factually inaccurate. Many state AGs challenged the law where it went to the U.S. Supreme Court where Obama counted on the liberal activist judges to side with him…and they would; but not before ruling that it was, in fact, a tax! This was the only way to make it a ‘legal law’and, subsequently, okay to impose fines on individuals who refused to show proof that they had other insurance, if not enrolled in Obama-care.
This fraudulently-passed law has caused businesses and individuals to face higher, not lower, healthcare premium costs and it gives many able-bodied and healthy people access to ‘free’ healthcare at the expense of the working employees and their employers. This is unfair. While the left will absolutely always use the emotional aspect of the issues for votes, I refuse to pander to any group for their votes. The facts are that Obamacare should not have ever been permitted to see the light of day.
To the second question: first, we must acknowledge that nearly half of all working-aged, able-bodied West Virginians have, for whatever reason, chosen not to pursue work. We must come to terms with the fact that this is unfair to many taxpayers who do work…sometimes two jobs…and are pulling the cart while able-bodied folks keep climbing into the cart for their ‘free ride.’ Why do politicians continue to incentivize this dangerous trend with more ‘free stuff?’ We must scale it back and eventually end it for people who have no physical or mental handicaps. The best win-win I can think of is to legislate (or de-legislate) whatever it takes to attract business and industry into our state to generate opportunity for these people. More businesses + more people working = more state revenue from income taxes and a growing economy.
This sets the future conditions for both individually purchased and state provided healthcare plans that help people who need it most while legislatively weaning-off those who abuse the system. I will also support legislation which requires that our students begin learning about work ethic, entrepreneurship, volunteerism and community involvement as early as middle school. I do not know how long it will take to change the tide of generational welfare-dependency and the self-entitlement mindset which the left has fostered for decades, but the sooner we act, the better.”
QUESTION 2: Recently, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice announced that Alpha Technologies has completed a fiber expansion project in the Kanawha Valley. This is one of several projects and initiatives related to broadband which the governor has announced over the last several months. While these projects are good for the more heavily populated areas of the state, they offer minimal benefit to southeastern West Virginia. As delegate, what can/will you do to address the lack of broadband accessibility throughout the Greenbrier Valley, and surrounding areas? Secondly, what can/will you do to encourage ISPs to invest in the creation of broadband infrastructure in the area?
ANSWER – Lavender-Bowe: “I worked for two years as a fully remote employee for a website company.
My colleagues across the U.S. were dismayed at the regular difficulties I had connecting to the internet. When the internet was down, I couldn’t work. My coworkers, and bosses, came to believe that W.Va. provided unreliable service to businesses. Unfortunately, that is the reality of our current broadband infrastructure.
Many millennial workers function in the gig economy in which, through the lack of access to well-paying, full-time jobs, they work for themselves in a variety of creative jobs. As the job market changes, they are adapting. We simply cannot successfully do that in W.Va. without access to reliable broadband internet.
Roads, bridges, a sound electrical grid and statewide broadband access are crucial to the future of economic growth in this state. Accessible roads, a strong, reliable electrical grid and broadband internet access will bring businesses here, improving the economy and making it easier for the next generation to stay, work and raise their families here.
As a member of the tech caucus in the W.Va. House of Delegates, we’ve been listening to leaders in the tech industry and trying to learn more about how we address these issues. The time has come for us to think outside of the box for a solution to this ongoing and worsening problem. We need to focus on finding a way to build our own broadband access. We can look to the examples of the 82 cities and towns, like Chattanooga, TN, who have built their own fiber-based internet for their citizens.
Broadband access allows people to work from home, study from home, utilize telemedicine and stay connected to their families, community and the world. We need to begin to address these issues on a local level to ensure that residents have access to reliable, affordable high-speed broadband.
The state of W.Va. has been working for years to expand access to affordable broadband for all residents of our state. Unfortunately, millions of dollars in federal funding have been spent and frankly, much of it was wasted on exorbitant contracts and broken promises. We are still paying back money to the federal government because it was not properly utilized by the businesses contracted to improve our internet infrastructure. Millions of dollars have been spent and we still don’t have reliable internet access for most of W.Va.”
ANSWER – Longanacre: “Since my last operational military deployment in 2014, deep in the mountains of Afghanistan where I had reliable high-speed internet, I have been asking the question why it is that my current internet service here at home, is worse than it was there…in a third-world country tattered by war? Then I became more convinced that I smell a fish…and a rotten one, at that.
In the year 2020, in the mountains of W.Va., there should be absolutely no reason why the lack of broadband accessibility should be an issue. As a Delegate, I will support a two-prong solution strategy. First, I will work to get legislation passed which would reallocate funding from some state agencies that could probably use a moderate tax-dollar diet, and put those funds into an agency tasked solely with developing a state-owned infrastructure across the state’s more rural communities, and eventually the entire state. The next simultaneous angle is to work with and through the W.Va. National Guard and other external agencies to gain insight into any ISPs which have served as defense contractors; at home and abroad. The purpose of this is to assess the types and configurations of ISP technologies, capabilities and potential costs to implement.
Finally, I can suggest and support legislative ways to incentivize these ISPs to establish a footprint in W.Va. Just like most other business corporations, they too are looking for ways to cut expenditures while increasing profit margins. We need to give ISPs the most attractive tax deferrals that can be offered. As they become established, and other outside corporations acknowledge that W.Va. is open for business with regard to high-speed internet service, the economic spinoff that this will create over time will more than pay for the initial lack of taxes from the ISPs themselves. I am confident that this will work simply because the status quo has not worked and we only have but one way to go; that is up! The first step is to get as many pro-business legislators into the House of Delegates as we possibly can. I am one such individual. You will never hear me scare off potential businesses with the constant threats of higher taxation!”
QUESTION 3: In July, Gov. Justice issued a mask mandate for all of West Virginia in an attempt to slow the person-to-person transmission of COVID-19. Many who disagree with the mandate do so on the basis that requiring the wearing of a mask is unconstitutional. Do you support the Governor’s mask-mandate? Do you believe that requiring an American to wear a face mask is a violation of their civil liberties? What can or will you say to and how can or will you work with those who disagree with you?
ANSWER – Lavender-Bowe: “I support the Governor’s mask-mandate. I do not believe that requiring an American to wear a face mask in a public building or private business is a violation of their civil liberties any more than requiring that a person wear shoes inside of these same establishments is a violation. It is a matter of public health and safety. It is a matter of caring for and protecting your community.
Masks are the most accessible tool we have in fighting coronavirus spread. If we are consistent in wearing masks and can get 90% of the population to wear them regularly, we could avoid another extensive shutdown. If we wear our masks, keep socially distanced and avoid congregate settings and crowds, we can make a huge impact on the spread. With winter approaching, we must be diligent with these guidelines.
Working closely with the Greenbrier County COVID-19 response team these last six-months, I have been vocal and visible regarding the recommendations of our local health department. I fully support their recommendations. I urge you to wear a mask to protect our community.
I am hopeful we can move toward this being a matter of science and public health and caring for our neighbors.”
ANSWER – Longanacre: “First, with all due respect to the Governor, (I voted for him this past week) no…I do not support a mask-mandate; particularly if it was not a part of the legislative law-making process. I do however support a face covering recommendation. Additionally, I also support an individual’s right to not wear a mask; especially if they believe that they are not ill or if they have a breathing disorder. However, I also believe in the right of business owners to ask people to leave their establishment for not wearing a mask if they so desire, although this may not be a desired option in a time when business may be slow already; not to mention the potential for liability due to discrimination.
The reason I hold these beliefs about COVID-19 is simple: if it is as deadly as they claim it to be, then why are we permitting any extracurricular-activities at all? Why is it okay for high school-age kids to grapple together on the wrestling mats, cheek to cheek with sweat and slobber flying for several minutes only to arise at the sound of the whistle, not allowed to then shake hands, and must immediately return to their corners and don their mask?
I had a Drill Sergeant once say to me ‘soldier…this sounds stupid because it is’ when referring to his young 2nd Lt. who was making knee-jerk decision based solely upon emotion rather than logically thinking through the second and third order effects of his directives to his Drill Sergeants! Unfortunately, we see examples like this far too many times in some of our elected servants who may believe we work for them. So, rather than to follow one another off a cliff like lemmings, I encourage everyone to tactfully ask questions when they ‘smell a fish.’ I encourage everyone to live their lives in freedom and without fear.
Let us not forget that the U.S. constitution provides individual states the right to do things not originally addressed within; this includes doing what some may believe to be stupid, like wearing a mask around all day to prevent a virus which has a 98% survival rate if infected. Moreover, I still question the accuracy of some of the test kits. Are we certain the tests are not registering false positives for individuals who may only have the common cold (another form of coronavirus)?
While I personally believe it to be unnecessary, mandating mask-wearing would probably not be considered a violation of civil liberties provided that such a mandate came from the constitution legislative process from duly elected lawmakers – representatives within state Congress. Personally I would not support such legislation; at least not for this particular virus. For people who disagree with me, I would simply say it’s okay to agree to disagree; especially when there are so many other greater issues to tackle using teamwork. I would be willing to be a paycheck that the reaction to this virus would have been very different had we not been in a major election year! Just ask B. Hussein Obama how he handled the H1N1 virus in 2009…wink. HINT: not only was his and Biden’s response a complete failure (their team lead later said they simply got lucky with that virus because they did everything wrong,) but a point came when after over one-million positive cases, the order went out to their willing accomplices in the media to not report any further on the matter; and it was so. We may never really know the true numbers who died from Obama/Biden’s swine-flu mess, but I digress.”
QUESTION 4: You have both presented certain ideas which, on the surface, appear highly beneficial to the Greenbrier Valley. However on the back end, they raise potentially significant concerns.
Delegate Lavender-Bowe, you have co-sponsored House Bill 2870, which seeks to reduce the amount of both students and school locations that a school nurse is responsible for servicing to no more than 500 students and two locations. This would require the state to hire approximately 75 additional nurses. In salary alone, this would represent an added cost to the state of nearly $4 million per year. In addition, there is currently a nationwide shortage of qualified nurses to fill these positions.
Major Longanacre, you have proposed a 10-year tax deferral in order to entice businesses capable of providing a large amount of jobs to come to the Greenbrier Valley. However, local businesses throughout the region have been forced to close due to the pandemic, the recession and diminishing population. They would seemingly be exempt from this deferment due to their smaller size.
Both plans offer strong benefits to the region, and have the potential to be of great help to the families living within it. Yet both present major challenges which must be addressed in order to become effective. If elected, or re-elected, how would the two of you work together to create the best possible versions of these proposals, while overcoming the obstacles which they present?
ANSWER – Lavender-Bowe: “Everything we do as a legislature should focus on helping the people who have made W.Va. home. On every bill, we should ask: how does this help West Virginians?
I am focused on crafting and supporting legislation that can make W.Va. a place where working families can thrive, not just survive. Focusing on legislation that can make W.Va. a destination state, not a departure state, is imperative to stop the mass exodus of our young people from their home state. It is time we invest our state budget-dollars into efforts that support our young people, families and small businesses.
Over the last several years, low-paying jobs have grown in W.Va. compared with a decline in jobs that pay well. Workers at the bottom of the pay-scale aren’t benefitting from a growing economy. Almost one in four West Virginians is employed in a low-wage job. In the 1970s, the average job paid the equivalent of $20 per hour. Today, two full-time jobs will not get you to that same level and W.Va. is suffering because of the lack of good paying jobs.
W.Va. has more than 38,000 small businesses. Instead of continuing to solely focus our time, money and efforts to woo out-of-state corporations to our state, we need to focus some efforts on our state’s small businesses and entrepreneurs. 79% of small businesses in W.Va. employ fewer than 14 people – these are the businesses that power our state.
Legislatively, we need to invest in small business development. We can also concentrate on removing the business inventory tax for the small businesses who would really feel the impact. We need to refocus our efforts on the people in our communities who are creating jobs, providing services at the local level and driving our economy.
When looking at attracting large employers to our state, it is imperative that we legislatively support non-discrimination for West Virginians. Employers, including most Fortune 500 companies, want non-discrimination policies in place before considering a city or town as a possible location for their operations, and our citizens deserve these protections. When it comes to tax deferments, these must be tied to actual jobs – full-time jobs that pay well. We’ve got to stop ‘giving away the farm’ in the hopes that jobs might be created.
In my time in the House of Delegates, I am proud to say there were many bipartisan victories; moments when our political differences were put aside, and we came together for the good of all West Virginians. We are working together across the aisle to take care of West Virginia’s most vulnerable citizens and I will continue to reach across the aisle to put our district first.
The truth is that while I do not see eye to eye with my colleagues on every issue, there is plenty of common ground and we seek that common ground every day. We are unified in our obligation to do the very best work we can for our constituents. More often than not, we find ourselves on the same team working toward the singular goal of a better West Virginia. As your elected officials, we are granted the great gift of the stewardship of our communities and state by you. We don’t take that responsibility lightly and we go to work everyday to make the best decisions we can in our respective positions.”
ANSWER – Longanacre: “Tax deferrals are not only fair and long overdue, but are a necessity in my view to jumpstart economies. With regard to our current small businesses…why have they been forced to close when so many other larger businesses like Wal-Mart or Lowes have not? I submit that all businesses, small and large, are essential; they’re essential to the communities in which they conduct business. They’re essential for their employees and employers who count on that business to sustain their livelihoods. They must be permitted to open now and, in fact, should never have been forced to close.
Our graduates (read future tax base) continue to leave the state to find work. If this loss of population continues, within a decade and one-half it is possible to see far more graduates than there are jobs to support them. Couple this with an increasing elderly population, as well as a potentially higher population of working-aged citizens who have given up on the job search, and you have a recipe for disaster.
We absolutely want to incentivize companies of all sizes to come, and stay, in the Mountain State. For our current businesses, the best thing we can do for them is to get back to respecting the constitutional rights of both employees and employers and let them open for business! I will also move to reduce unnecessary and cumbersome business requirements. Among my past professional certifications is that of Lean Six Sigma analyst, whereas I participated in operational efficiency projects which saved the Dept. of Defense over $1 million in 2007/2008. As a state Delegate, I am confident I could propose and support ways to make running a business as user friendly as possible from the business owner’s perspective as well as streamlining state operations to make them more taxpayer friendly. And yes…small and medium size businesses should also receive tax incentives for hiring additional employees and/or giving salary increases. They should not be punished with higher taxes for simply increasing their profit margins by providing a product or service that people want or need.
As for compensating counties for the loss of tax revenue due to my push for more business tax holidays and repeals, I simply offer the following…that money was not the property of the counties to begin with.
I do not recall many in the House of Delegates, including our two sitting-Delegates, ever asking the question: ‘How can/would the individual business owners compensate for the loss of business-revenue within our District’s business community if we continue shaking them down for money to redistribute to non-earners?’
It is time to have a state-level debate to either keep the state’s tax on personal income while eliminating sales taxes, or to eliminate the state’s tax on personal income while keeping the sales tax. What better time to have this discussion than when state officials are boasting of a budget surplus (meaning we the people have paid in more than what is needed to fund the basic essentials of government)?
Instead of confiscating more, government at all levels needs to stop confiscating the private earnings of both individuals and businesses and permit them to keep and spend it here within the District. This is how local economies can grow and flourish over time. The bottom line is this; sustaining current jobs while creating more jobs is the key to a growing economy. A growing economy, with more individuals working and paying income taxes, is the key to increased tax revenue for the state and the counties; not ever-increasing taxes and over-regulation which costs jobs.
As for working with other Delegates; that will depend on their motives. I decided to run because, like most of my supporters, I grew tired of watching people I elected to represent me continue to compromise away our traditional conservative values. I am running in order to conserve your God-given rights and to keep the liberals from pushing to confiscate more of your family or business earnings. Therefore, I will not compromise on any further socialism than what has already been permitted by RINOs in state Congress. I will not compromise on our Bill of Rights. I did not get into this race to ‘work across the aisle’ with democrat socialists hell bent on ‘fundamentally changing’ the country I deployed overseas several times to defend. I will not aid, abet, enable or provide comfort to any politician’s legislation in Charleston which seeks to erase our history, promote abortion, promote lower education standards, enable rioters and looters or fleece our community businesses with unfunded mandates. For me, this is not a fight between Republicans and Democrats. For me it is a fight between liberty and tyranny.
Now, that being said, I am holding out hope that there are still a few Democrats left out there who actually still loves and has allegiance to America, its culture, its free-market, its history, traditional-norms, its rule of constitutionally-permissible law, and, more importantly, its Christian heritage which gave us our founding principles. If so, then I will absolutely seek them out and incorporate an offensive team-building strategy that I have done so many times in the past with soldiers with whom I disagreed in order to improve our District. In essence, if politicians would simply get back to the constitution, there would be far fewer obstacles to navigate.”
Those are the answers as provided to the West Virginia Daily News by the respective candidates. Once again, the WV Daily News would like to extend our sincere appreciation to both Cindy and Todd for participating.
The last day to cast your vote in West Virginia is Tuesday, November 3.
The West Virginia Daily News is not affiliated with any political party, and does not provide endorsements of any particular candidate. The WVDN takes every reasonable measure to remain unbiased in its reporting, and pride on being driven solely by factual information. However, the WVDN appreciates Del. Lavender Bowe and Maj. Longanacre working with the newspaper to provide this information to voters. While the WV Daily News does not offer any endorsement to either candidate, the newspaper applauds the dedication both candidates have demonstrated to the Greenbrier Valley, and join with them in celebration of our democracy.