Rise Up WV

Building power for a better West Virginia


2020 Candidate Statements, House District 36

James Elam

Hello. My name is James Elam, and I am running to represent you in the West Virginia House of Delegates, 36th District.


Before I ran for public office, I was a Corrections Officer, working in a state prison. It was here I found a passion for criminal justice reform and taking on the drug and addiction epidemic that has taken hold on West Virginia and her people. This is arguably one of the most pressing issues in our State’ s history as it directly impacts our economy, workforce, and future. 

Our criminal justice system isn’t working for those struggling with addiction. Ultimately, what I’ve found is: you can’t lock up the drug problem in this State and pretend it’s not there. Doing that serves no-one, and only makes the problem worse.

We need to focus on rehabilitative care for non-violent offenders, and do so in a recovery or rehabilitation center, not a state correctional facility. Jail and prison is not an environment conducive to recovery. I’ve seen this first hand. 


In my opinion, West Virginia is the most beautiful State in the United States. We want to keep it that way by preserving our natural resources. Our future generations deserve clean water to drink and clean air to breathe.

 I firmly believe we must focus on renewable energy that is more environmentally conscientious like solar, hydroelectricity, and wind. Global warming is happening, and is the greatest existential threat of our time. We must address and accept it as truth, because it is exactly that: true. 

Safe drinking water, clean air, rich lands, these are not the enemies of strong, economic development in West Virginia. Rather, these are the fundamental drivers of a strong economy and State. The renewable energy market also would create many new, high-paying jobs for West Virginia’s workforce. 


Additionally, I’ve always suggested full legalization of cannabis to assist us in both our criminal justice reform and helping those addicted. Just one example of this, African Americans are 3x more likely to be arrested on a cannabis charge than their white counterparts. This is wrong. 

Legalization of cannabis clears a path to where no-one who uses cannabis is labeled a criminal. Furthermore, the Journal of the American Medical Association has stated, “in States with legal cannabis, the opioid mortality rate drops by about 24.8%, and that rate continues to increase the longer cannabis is legal in that State.” 

These statistics prove to be pivotal, because West Virginia has the highest rate of opioid related overdose and death in the United States. You’d think knowing this information, cannabis legalization would be a no-brainer. Sadly, right now, it seems we are fighting an uphill battle. Cannabis can help our patients, bolster our economy, and reform aspects of our criminal justice system. We need to get on board with the 11 other States who currently have legal, recreational cannabis. 


 One of the more personal reasons I am running for office is to protect all Mountaineers under the law. Our State motto is, “Montani Semper Liberi,” which translates to Mountaineers are Always Free. That sounds nice, but are we ALL really free though? 

I am openly gay. I have been out for nearly a decade. In this State it is still 100% legal to be fired from your job or kicked out of your home based on your sexual orientation or gender identity. That doesn’t sound like a very free nor fair society to me. 

LGBTQ West Virginians have no recourse for protection under the Hate Crimes Act, and conversion therapy is still legal here in the Mountain State. 

As your next Delegate, I promise to fight for the LGBTQ community just as I’ve done for nearly 10 years now. 3 years of that time has been spent running for office and advocating on behalf of LGBTQ Mountaineers. 

When in office, I will support and sponsor EHNDA (Employment Housing Non-Discrimination Act) which was similar to the Fairness Act that was just killed in the 2020 session. I have lobbied for this legislation, and countless other bills, to advance the rights of our LGBTQ citizenry. I will oppose any and all legislation that hurts my community. 


I wholeheartedly support our educators. They were facing a challenge similar in 2018 that I faced as a Corrections Officer working in state government. PEIA rate increases and not a high enough salary. Like our teachers, many Officers found themselves going either the federal system or other States across our borders for higher wages. This unacceptable. 

We need to index teacher pay to that of our highest paying neighboring state, and tie that pay scale to inflation in order to recruit, attract, and retain quality educators for our students. We must focus less on standardized testing and let our teachers actually teach. We must stand strong against charter schools and ESAs, and oppose any public funds from going to anything but the public school system.

The voice of our teachers and school service personnel must be protected, as must their seniority rights. 


More than 30 million people in the United States right now have no health insurance. This is exactly why I support Medicare for All, a single-payer, health-care system. Every American in this country, no matter their financial situation, has a right to quality healthcare. Access to quality, affordable health-care should NEVER be treated as a luxury. 

Pharmaceutical and health insurance lobbyists and lobbies have spent billions of dollars over the course of decades to ensure that the health of the American people doesn’t cut into their profits. That’s unacceptable and West Virginians deserve so much better. This will start changing when we get money out of politics, start electing citizen representatives, rather than political  corporate mouthpieces.


We are all going to have to be in this fight together to achieve the objectives we are fighting so hard for. 

The reason I feel I am most qualified to serve as the next Delegate in District 36, is because I have lived most of these issues. 

  • I am what most would consider “low income.” I’ve seen the face of drug addiction first hand serving West Virginia’s most vulnerable as a Corrections Officer in a prison. 
  • I’m proud to be openly gay and have unfortunately lived the struggles the LGBTQ faces every single day. 
  • I’m a survivor of gun violence, and an advocate for better mental health-care and health-care services in general.
  • I love West Virginia and the aesthetic beauty of our State. I’d like to preserve that for future generations by tightening up environmental regulations and promoting renewable energy sources. Green energy is the way of the future. 
  • I’m a proud West Virginian through and through who will fight for ALL people in this District and this State.
  • I will not hide from you once elected. I will be accessible and accountable to all West Virginians. We deserve and demand representatives in our government that truly care for those whom we represent. I am proud to say to the people in my District and this State, I truly do care.

Thank you,

`James Elam (D)


Amanda Estep-Burton

Hello, I am Amanda Estep-Burton and I am honored to represent the 36th district and with your support, I hope to continue to represent you.

For the last two years, I have been the lead sponsor for a bill to provide paid family medical leave to every working West Virginian. The average West Virginian is one illness away from losing everything. I have also co-sponsored a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. I have been a champion for working families and unions. We need to repeal Right to Work legislation and strengthen workers rights instead of corporate rights.

I feel that healthcare is a basic human right. Our healthcare system is very flawed. I was thrilled to co-sponsor the bill to cap insulin co-pays at $25. We need a dedicated source of funding for PEIA. We need to protect every West Virginian from sickness regardless of income. We need to provide treatment to every West Virginian suffering from substance use disorder, regardless of race, gender or income. 

Our politicians need to work for regular normal West Virginians. Not just corporations and wealthy folks but the average person. Some of our legislators have never had to choose between paying for medications or buying food and that puts them at a disadvantage when representing their constituents who have had to make that tough choice. I know what it's like to be a single mom on welfare and stand in line at the food bank because my insurance didn't cover a medication that my child needed, so I chose medicine and went to the food pantry to survive. It is 2020. No West Virginian should have to make the choice between food and medicine.

I support non-discrimination laws, campaign finance reform and a clean environment. I am happy to elaborate on any issue that is important to you. My email is [email protected]. I look forward to talking to you.

WE not ME!


Amanda Estep-Burton


Amber Ferrell

As a member of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) I have been on the frontlines of the battle against the rights of workers and unions in WV. I attended the rally to protest the Right to Work laws, and linked arms with my union brothers and sisters as we took a stand against this attack on working families. In a state that has such a long-standing tradition of strong unions, I believe this was an unfair and unfortunate attack on the very backbone of our state. I will do everything in my power, as a member of the WV Legislature, to undo the Right to Work laws that have been put in place. Additionally, I believe that WV workers deserve rights such as collective bargaining. There is a great difference in the strength of a union, and as a result, the voice of the working class, in states that have collective bargaining versus the ones who do not. This is an issue that I feel very passionate about, as I am directly impacted by it. As a teacher, I can identify several issues that are facing public education. Some of these issues within the school system that need to be addressed are smaller class sizes, less instructional time, mental health professionals within the school, etc. Part of collective bargaining would be allowing educators a voice in developing the policies that would resolve these problems. Given the current climate of the Legislature, I realize that this will not be an easy fight. However, through efforts of groups such as Rise Up WV, the voice of the working class is growing again in our state. This is why I believe the time is right to have strong pro-worker voices on the inside that will match the enthusiasm and passion of those fighting on the outside. We should not have to stand by, year after year, waiting to see what the latest attack will be. Sympathy from Legislatures is important and necessary, but I do not believe it can take the place of actual working-class members. 

I would love to expand on any of the above issues as needed. 

Thank You, 

Amber Ferrell 

Candidate – House of Delegates 

36th District


Larry Rowe

I intend to be a progressive voice for West Virginians who want to change the political landscape in the state and nation.  There is too much money in the "politics industry."

I support non discrimination laws, repeal of right to work, charter school, and prevailing wage bills, a $15.00 minimum wage, paid work leave, free college tuition for first year students at our four year regional colleges and universities, Medicare for all who will join at age 55 and then in expanded  steps on a multiyear plan, end of work requirements for food stamps and Medicaid, better foster care, no unnecessary judicial bureaucracy with a new appeals court, end of the wait list for IDD waivers, increased meal rates for senior centers, money for new meal trucks and needed equipment, continuing support for higher education, public broadcasting, humanities, and the arts and culture. 

We should go back to the prior limits on campaign contributions and stop putting so many poor and minority people in jail with unnecessary corrupt bail systems, and we should stop taking away drivers licenses, since they are needed for work, health care and family care.  Solar and wind energy should be encouraged.  Taxes on businesses should not be cut with funds from tax increases on working people.

New installations by the military,  and federal and state  governments should be used to jump start new diverse economies in energy states.  The Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy in Montgomery is a good start at a new community development.  The federal government owes such new installations  to energy states because of their sudden lost of coal economies.

Rise Up, yes.  Thank you.  Larry L. Rowe

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