Marshall Hosts Candidate Forum

Sarah Davis, Staff Reporter

Possible solutions to problems with energy, jobs, justice and climate change were offered by three candidates for various state Senate and House of Delegates posts at a forum hosted by Marshall University at the student center on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

Delegate candidates Sydnee Smirl McElroy (District 26) and Ally Layman (District 24) along with senate candidate Melissa Clark (District 5) fielded questions from the public and the forum’s partnered organizations, including the West Virginia Climate Alliance, Citizen Action Group, Environmental Council, the League of Women Voters and the Marshall community. At the beginning of the forum, the candidates were asked to share their thoughts on this question from the mediator: “What do you believe is the most important aspect of building a strong, sustainable economy in West Virginia?”

Candidate McElroy answered first, saying that it is of most importance think about what makes a community desirable.

“That’s something we can focus a lot more on- is building up our communities,” McElroy said. “And not necessarily looking to outside corporations and industries to come and rescue us because that’s always the mistake in West Virginia. We look for somebody to come in; we give them tax breaks to come and rescue us and instead we get exploited.” 

Throughout her answer, McElroy emphasized the importance of community building. 

“So, I think building up our communities and making them attractive places to live and work is one of the first things we can do,” she said.

Candidate Layman added that breaking the job stigma is another crucial step to building a solid economy, saying, “I worked in the service industry for a decade, and I made a really good living, but it is not seen as a job that is respectable.” Layman also talked about looking out for minority groups and vulnerable populations regarding job fairness and diversity.

Lastly, Candidate Clark stressed that West Virginia needs more open markets to allow West Virginians to continue to work in West Virginia.

“Part of doing that is understanding we do need traits such as respect and acceptance and inclusion,” Clark said. She talked about how many living in poverty struggle with mental illness and how communities can help them by meeting them where they are and providing the appropriate resources. 

In their closing statements, McElroy, Layman and Clark could all agree on two principles. One was that they are all passionate about communities, and the second was steps must be taken to ensure that those West Virginia communities are healthier.