Jeff Kessler seeks votes
The special election for governor is less than a month away, and acting Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, visited the Eastern Panhandle last week in hopes to secure the nomination for the democratic party.
Kessler, a native of the Northern Panhandle who identifies with this area due to feeling “a bit divorced from the Charleston complex,” said he is the “2011 candidate with 20/20 vision.”
Kessler was voted State Senate president 21-12 by his colleagues once Earl Ray Tomblin took over as governor when Joe Manchin was elected to U.S. Senate, and he said that during the few months in that role he has put Eastern Panhandle senators in key leadership positions, including Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, as majority leader and Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, chair of the government organizations committee.
“He already showed that he can recognize the significance of the Eastern Panhandle,” said Donn Marshall, Kessler’s regional coordinator.
“As I go around the state and I hear a lot of the other candidates talk, I think that you’ll probably see that I’m the only candidate, I think, that is not looking at this as an opportunity for a one-year term,” Kessler said in an interview April 7. “But truthfully, in my view, I think West Virginia’s poised to have what I consider a breakout decade.”
Kessler believes there is economic opportunity for the state, which has a budget that is in the black, through what he calls his “linchpin” of his platform, the “Future Fund.”
“It’s not where we are today, where we’re going to be next year. My goal is where we want West Virginia to be a decade from now,” Kessler said.
This fund would collect 25 percent of the severance tax from Marcellus Shale drilling, which Kessler believes should have in place regulatory framework, in an endowment fund to collect interest over 20 years.
Kessler took his ideas across the Eastern Panhandle – from Martinsburg to Charles Town – last week, and on Friday, April 8, he met with Shepherdstown residents in Mellow Moods to hear what they wanted from their governor.
Lynn Yellott, of the Eastern Panhandle Payer Action Network, was one of the residents interested in talking to Kessler about health care. Though Yellott was speaking for herself and not her organization, she is interested in candidates’ stances of health care reform and statewide support of medicare.
“He has been strong on the need of health care reform,” she said. “I think he’s very responsive. I appreciate his speaking out about health care.”
Denny Crosby had a question about one part of Kessler’s vision, which would allow greater access to health insurance at the lowest possible cost.
“There’s something hidden in that statement,” Crosby said, noting that he believed that part of Kessler’s vision made it seem that health insurance unaffordable. “How does that conflict with the health care law that was put into place a year and a half ago?”
Philip Mastrangelo, owner of Mellow Moods, said he had the chance to tell Kessler what he believes are important issues the state needs to consider.
Mastrangelo believes the state needs to get certified professional midwives legalized as well as medical marijuana. He said the medical marijuana is not just an opportunity for health care but for tax purposes.
Mastrangelo said while this special primary election will be “interesting,” he heard about Kessler from Regional Coordinator Marshall.
Marshall got to know Kessler after running for state office himself last year. He involved himself in the gubernatorial campaign because he said Kessler has a track record of making things happen.
“He’s a candidate from a panhandle,” Marshall said. “He gets our issues in a way that no other can.”
He said he likes other candidates “but it’s more of the same.”
Kessler wants to take what he’s done in his 14 years as a senator and, most recently, as acting senate president, to the governor’s office.
“I believe we’ve changed the senate forever,” he said. “I believe we can change the state forever.”
For more information, visit www.jeffkesslerforgovernor.com.