BUCKHANNON -- The Upshur County general election has one of the most contested ballots in North Central West Virginia this year -- half of the eight county races are disputed.
All of the contested races involve the two major political parties, with GOP incumbent commissioner Rick Rice squaring off against Democrat challenger Stephen P. Abel for the third district seat; Republican incumbent commissioner Joyce Harris-Thacker facing Democrat Kenny Davidson; Republican incumbent Sheriff Larry G. Marsh opposed by Democrat Sherman Baxa and Republican assessor candidate Helen Waybright Phillips facing Democrat challenger Robert P. "Buddy" Jones.
Abel, the retired owner of a coal company, has never run for a political office before but said that he has a lot of time to devote to the position and wants to see Upshur County grow.
"I just wanted to see a change," Abel said. "With Corridor H, we're seeing expansion but in order to grow, we have to do it in the right way."
Abel also said he was concerned that there were not enough jobs in the county to support the number of local college graduates.
"When the kids graduate, the immediately head for the state line," he said. "I have two kids in college and I want to see them have some options."
Abel's competitor, incumbent Rick Rice, agrees with Abel that Upshur County needs to see more expansion along Corridor H, but said that the experience he has gained in his six years as commissioner make him the best choice to lead the county in the right direction.
"This commission has been very active in expanding the infrastructure base. You need to be proactive, not reactive when you're dealing with water, sewage and electricity," he said. "I feel like we've done a very good job preparing Upshur County for the future."
Upshur County's uncontested races are Democrat incumbent Circuit Judge Thomas H. Keadle of Buckhannon, Republican surveyor candidate Dale P. Bennett of Buckhannon, Republican incumbent prosecutor Alexander Ross and Republican incumbent magistrates Virgil Miller and Juanita Adams.
Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.