Eastern panhandle economy at issue in West Virginia gubernatorial debate

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FALLING WATERS, W.Va. (WDVM) — With West Virginia’s nominees for governor making their case to voters, the eastern panhandle is sizing them up in Tuesday night’s debate.

It’s a Mountain State political showdown on the airwaves. You can watch the debate at 7 p.m. on WDVM-TV or by clicking here. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ben Salango says the economy grows by focusing on each region.

“Each part of West Virginia is unique,” says Salango. “You can’t do things in southern West Virginia that you can do in the eastern panhandle or the northern panhandle.”

Republican Delegate Larry D. Kump, from the eastern panhandle, says he is on board with that.

“The eastern panhandle is different from the rest of West Virginia,” says Kump. “Our culture and our orientation is more toward DC as opposed to the rest of West Virginia.”

That may be fine, says Salalngo, but he added, “We really have to have a governor who’s paying attention to the eastern panhandle. I mean I can’t remember the last time the governor attended an event in the eastern panhandle or actually came to the eastern panhandle.”

Delegate Kump says the job market in the eastern panhandle isn’t hurting like other regions of the state – it’s actually robust. And besides, he says, “The overwhelming thing on people’s minds right now is the COVID virus.”

As for the Justice-Salango debate, Salango says it’s all up to the voters. “This is a job interview,” Salango says. “They get to pick who gets this job for the next four years.”

Salango is a fresh face on the political landscape for West Virginia. Eastern panhandle voters will have a say if that’s the direction they want to go for the next four years.

Governor Justice was elected as a Democrat in 2016 but changed parties. Salango is a Kanawha County Commissioner, the seat of West Virginia state government.

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