Rise Up WV

Building power for a better West Virginia


2020 Candidate Statements, House District 35

Devin Casey

I am Devin Casey, a Democrat running for WV House of Delegates 35th district.  I have four children and work as a carpenter and plumber performing residential remodeling.  I earned a Bachelor's degree from Marshall University in Business Management, minoring in Economics.  I was born and raised in Kanawha county.  I have chosen to run for office to protect the wellbeing of WV.  I support affordable healthcare for all.  I believe the state government should work to improve the quality of our local free clinics and expand the number of services and procedures offered at these locations.  

I strongly support organized labor and labor unions. I believe local manufacturing is key in diversifying our economy and strong unions are necessary in these types of professions.  Working people need strength in numbers to ensure their voices are heard.  Skilled trades people benefit from their rigorous training and safety programs offered by union apprenticeships. The public is safer when skilled laborers construct our infrastructure.  

I support a strong public education system.  Good public education improves the peoples wellbeing.  Good schools will attract good people, while keeping the ones we have. I support increasing teacher pay and benefits, along with improving existing school facilities.  

We must grow our local economy by supporting local businesses. This means buying local produced goods from local businesses regularly. If would-be entrepreneurs believed there is a loyal customer base, they will be more likely to open a business here.  More businesses will result in more jobs and increase tax revenue, allowing for the funding of government programs.  

I believe our government should protect and work for working people.  Working people are the backbone of our local economy.  Our leaders must hold big business accountable when it comes to its major impact on our Mother Earth.  Protecting WV mountains, air, and water needs to be emphasized, when attempting to balance our future needs with our present ones. 

Devin Casey

Candidate for WV House 35th District 


Kathy Ferguson

Hello Rise Up!  It is my full intention to be a legislator that represents all of the people within the 35th District; the Have Not’s, the Almost Got’s and yes, the Have’s too, though they seem to be faring well with policies and legislation that favor them.  Unfortunately, there are areas throughout the 35th District which get short shrift when it comes to participating in decisions that impact them.  I’m intimately aware of this as I come into this race as the only candidate running from the North side of the Kanawha River, the only candidate from an historically African-American community, and the only candidate from an unincorporated area.  I epitomize the groups of people that are routinely marginalized and oppressed by the current power structure governing WV and its commitment to the status quo. Groups for whom the basic needs of food, clothing, water, shelter, healthcare are the priority.

I have been fighting on the frontlines of environmental justice for a while now; partnering with groups and a working to ensure proper ecological management and standards that will save our planet and keep it a habitable one.  Pam Nixon, Maya Nye and a host of others are champions that I regularly work with on initiatives, legislation, and reporting standards that address ‘fence line’ issues, hold industries accountable, and keep both the public and workers safe.

Education though not in my wheelhouse is an important issue.  I would not presume to speak on education other than to say a lot of what ails our educational system is that it is woefully underfunded and has had poor commitment from our leaders.   Legislators are in my opinion among the least capable of speaking to this issue. It isn’t enough to have good ideas or a thought that something may work.... you really need to know what’s at play and be thoroughly versed in educational reform.  My intention is to defer to educators and education stakeholders; working in coordination with them to better advance our system on all levels. Addressing school and class size, implicit bias of educators, the school to prison pipeline, text book development/selection, teacher training, teacher salaries, the need for more school counselors, and ensuring that public funds are not used for charter schools are among the priorities I foresee my active involvement in.  

Insofar as worker rights, the powers that be regularly use smoke and mirror tactics that seem to be one thing at first blush, but are actually the complete opposite.  Many of these laws are coming from an organized playbook that is being shared state to state; WV becoming one of the beneficiaries of this inheritance. I will continue to be a friend and ally to unions in legislative dealings, fighting for matters that protect workers as well as resisting policies that seek to undercut and undermine the importance of a united workforce and its ability to bargain collectively.  Regarding specific issues, I support legislation that sets higher livable wages and want to reverse Right to Work legislation. I will work to protect peoples’ right to assemble and protest, and want to broaden the coalition of working people to fight corporatocracy. Further I’m interested in diversifying WV’s economy in a way that supports new industry and creates jobs while ensuring that transitioning workers aren’t left behind.

When I was young, my uncle used to say quite often that “we are what we were when”.  He got that phraseology from another, and eventually I came to understand it. My mother specialized in civil rights law and retired as an administrative law judge with the WV Human Rights Commission.  My father, an administrator with the WVSU Upward Bound program introduced youth from both urban and rural communities to the prospect of higher ed as a way out of poverty and founded what is believed to be the first grass roots organization fighting for environmental justice in the country.  I was raised in a household that espoused inclusion, tolerance, equity, and justice such that I probably didn’t have much choice in the matter about the direction of my life - which has brought me to this moment. I was born a fighter and taught not just to do so for myself but for the masses of people.  The sum total of my background and life experiences both personal and professional give me a unique lens by which I gauge leadership and will inform my approach as a legislator…continuing to give voice to the voiceless and ensuring ALL people in District 35 have access to resources and information in order to make decisions about  issues that impact them. I make a public commitment that in my role as legislator, my door will always be open to The People.


Patti Hamilton

Read her statement here


Angi Kerns

For the better part of the last several years, I’ve been fortunate to participate in a growing movement - for West Virginians, by West Virginias – to provide necessary services to those in our state.  Most recently, that work has been with the national non-profit, Mid-West Foodbank, spearheading efforts to provide access to food and nutritional services to every person in need, be them the parents, children or the elderly of West Virginia. I’m proud to have been empowered to lead their efforts in this region because, like many West Virginians, abuse and despair was once all I knew. This transformation has taught me that the change that we need– that they need – will require more than just a change in perspective. 

This moment of enthusiasm that has brought us here is about more than the pain West Virginia is experiencing. And if we are able to seize upon this moment, as I believe we can, West Virginia’s story of progress will be one that mirrors my own. Since choosing to serve I’ve witnessed what a policy of radical love can do to help overcome the absence of compassion. The snowballing effect of meeting basic through feeding and nutritional programs instills conviction in everyday people that can be acted upon for election cycles to come. 

My ongoing fight for a fairer, more just world, is one that will continue whether I am elected or not. The accountability that I seek to embody once in office is exactly that of which I’ve held others to. My experience has taught me that it isn’t compassion that compels our government, but rather, that good government is compelled by the will of the compassionate. Step-by-step, progressives in this state will create a more functional and responsive democracy by giving a voice to the voiceless. The political and policy priorities of empowering unions, protecting the environment and expanding what constitutes as basic human rights are those that I unabashedly support but they will not be achieved overnight. I’m doubtless, however, that the goals of the WVWFP will be realized if we make it our mission to change the criteria by which our government takes its citizens into account. 

My campaign is one of progress but it’s also one of proliferation. Those who feel represented by their government will extend beyond traditional power bases because I’ll continue to empower every person in this state as a matter of the principles I’ve adopted. Furthermore, I support the policies of WVWFP because they are the logical outcomes of the radical love practiced by those that I have the privilege of working with each day. We will continue to build inclusive coalitions that favor polices that make us more complete society. We’ll stop hating the pollution and start loving the rebirth of tourism. We’ll stop hating the healthcare executive and loving what the healthy West Virginian is capable of. We’ll stop hating the hate and loving the individual for the faith, respect and intellect they bring to the ever-growing table. As much as we need agreement, we perhaps need engagement more, because it’s what will bring the tangible change that comes from delivering on a promise of hope.


Rusty Williams

This is personal to me. 

After having experienced a life-threatening cancer diagnosis without insurance and being forced to illegally procure a flower to help alleviate the harsh side-effects of chemotherapy, I’ve dedicated my life to ending cannabis prohibition and to fighting for patients. 

I’ve learned how to successfully navigate the political process and I’ve built relationships on both sides of the aisle in both the Senate and the House that will be critical when it comes to getting meaningful legislation passed. As an unpaid citizen lobbyist, I played an integral role in the passage of the WV Medical Cannabis Act and was appointed by Governor Justice to the position of Patient Advocate on the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board in June 2017.

I know what it takes to get things done and I’m resolved to do everything I can to help put an end the centuries-old corporate stranglehold that’s fueling the addiction epidemic and robbing these hills of an entire generation.

I will fight for the sick. 

I will fight for the downtrodden because I know what it feels like to wonder where your next meal is going to come from and where you're going to lay your head at night, all because you suffered the misfortune of getting sick in the richest country in the history of the world.

I will fight to implement compassionate solutions to the addiction epidemic because every single one of us knows someone battling addiction right at this very moment and they need our help.

I will fight to ensure that every West Virginia worker has the right to collectively bargain for better pay, benefits, and working conditions because I know how powerful we are when we’re united.

I’m running because we deserve better than the status quo. 

I hope you’ll consider me for endorsement.


Kayla Young

I am running because West Virginia needs change. We need leaders that fight for empathy, put people first, and have the courage to say “we must do better.” I am running a people-first campaign to be the voice for my community, and to stand up to special interests. I think too many members of our Legislature vote in favor of who signs their checks, and vote to keep their seats. If elected, I will always stand up for people, and what is best for them and West Virginia. We are losing people at an alarming rate, with costs still continuing to rise, 7,000 foster children, and more than 10,000 homeless children. We have failed the next generation. Now more than ever, we have to move forward to survive and thrive for our future. Below are some ideas on the pillars of the Rise Up platform:

Healthcare: Healthcare is a right. No one should suffer because they can’t afford healthcare. Until we have federal universal healthcare, we should be doing everything we can at a state level to ensure our people have access to medical care, both physical and mental. We must protect rural healthcare, and account for the closing of rural facilities. We should ban surprise billing from insurers and doctors. Reproductive healthcare IS healthcare, period. We should broaden telehealth options for all. Opioid crisis related policies should be handled with compassion, not punitive measures. With our aging population, accessible healthcare is vital.  

Workers: Right to work must be repealed, and prevailing wage must be reinstated. We should work to keep all safety standards we have in place, not continue to water them down. We should also allow employees to collectively bargain and use their voices. We also need to modernize the very outdated Department of Personnel hiring procedure, to recruit young talent. 

Education: Fully funding PEIA for Teachers is at the top of my education priorities. Focusing on improving our education system through funding, providing for our teachers is an investment for our children and future generations. We should increase teacher pay, promote professional development and work to lower tuition and fees for higher education. 

Equality: I want to guarantee equality for all. We should ban conversion therapy, and implement housing and workplace protections for all. While women are NOT a special interest group, there are many issues that I support for women’s equality including closing the pay gap and ending the luxury tax on menstrual products. We should also increase access to fresh food for ALL. 

Transparency: We should only allow FOIA exemptions for reasons of state and national security, and should cease the exemptions that various state agencies have when it comes to purchasing contracts. I also believe there should be a third party office that handles fiscal notes during the legislative session, so legislators have an unbiased, accurate financial opinion of what they are voting for. Transparency is vital for integrity.

Environment: I believe in improving air & water quality standards, including never lessening our standards to make them lesssafe. We need to diversify our energy portfolio to include renewables in all classes of service for economic development, allow financing opportunities for residential and non-profit sectors. We must break the loyalty we have to coal. While it runs deep in our history, we need to acknowledge that a pivot is required for the state’s revenue and for the workers. We must ensure a just transition for workers of eminently declining industries.

Other: We MUST diversify the economy through various initiatives. We should stop picking winners and losers by offering tax breaks and incentives to extractive and manufacturing industries, and instead help our small businesses. We should be working to improve the lives of our veterans with access to housing and mental health care. We must strengthen consumer protections relating to for-profit utilities and insurance claims. We need to raise the minimum wage, and work on adjusting the tax system so people pay accurate proportions. We need criminal justice reform and to keep people out of jail if at all necessary. I also support decriminalization and legalization for cannabis, medical and recreational. 

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