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Brunner And Kessler Seek Senate Seat

By Staff | Oct 29, 2008

Editor’s note: The Wetzel Chronicle sent questionnaires to candidates in local, contested races. In an effort to provide fair, informative election coverage, they are being printed in simple question and answer format, preceded by the candidates’ biography.)

Democrat incumbent Jeffrey V. Kessler and Republican Fred J. Brunner are both vying for the Second District State Senate seat.

Brunner is married to Bonnie Anderson and resides in Cherokee Hills, Moundsville. Brunner served in the Marine Corps from 1959 to 1963 including almost three years in the Far East. He also served in the Army National Guard, retiring in 1995. Brunner attended Fairleigh Dickinson University.

He retired from General Motors Acceptance Corporation. During his career Brunner worked at various branches in New Jersey and the Pittsburgh area.

Brunner is a member of the Glen Dale United Methodist Church and serves as chair of the Administrative Council. Previously, he chaired the Board of Trustees.

A member of the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce, Brunner serves on the Economic Development Committee which he previously chaired. He has also served on the board as treasurer.

Brunner serves on the Moundsville Planning Commission, which he chaired in 2007. He is a member of the Moundsville Lions Club and served as the treasurer.

He is a member of Marine Corps League Detachment #771 and American Legion Post #3. Brunner is a Freemason. He is a Past Master, Past Commander, and Past High Priest in the York Rite. He is also a member of the Osiris Shrine.

Kessler was born on Nov. 16, 1955, in Wheeling.

Kessler graduated from Bishop Donahue High School in 1974 and from West Liberty State College with highest honors in December 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Economics and Political Science.

He attended the West Virginia University College of Law, where he earned his law degree in May 1981. Since that time, Kessler has practiced law in Moundsville. He is a founding partner in the law firm of Berry, Kessler, Crutchfield, Taylor & Gordon.

Kessler has served as City Solicitor for the City of Benwood, Municipal Court Judge for the City of McMechen, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in Marshall County from 1985 to 2000, and as a Special Prosecutor in Ohio and Wetzel counties.

Senator Kessler was appointed as chairman of the Senate Judiciary during the 2003 session. He has served as vice-chairman of the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee and as vice-chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Economic Development. In addition to chairing the Judiciary Committee, Senator Kessler currently serves on the Rules, Government Organization, Banking and Insurance, and Energy Industry & Mining committees.

Kessler resides in Glen Dale with his wife Gretchen, and their children, Jacob, Lauren, Jackson, and Hastings.

1. In 1997 the legislature created the W.Va. 2/I-68 Authority, charged with promoting and advancing “the construction of a modern highway through Wood, Pleasants, Tyler, Wetzel, Marshall, Ohio, Brooke, Hancock, Marion, and Monongalia counties”. It has been suggested that the authority be expanded to include Cabell, Jackson, and Mason counties. Do you support that? Why or why not? Also, Gov. Manchin has suggested abandoning the I-68 extension from Morgantown to Moundsville. Do you support that? Why or why not?

Brunner: The authority is already responsible for a sizable area, to add to it I believe would create an unfair burden on the authority. Members already travel considerable distances to get to the meetings. I also feel that the legislatures should be certain that these authorities are adequately funded. They almost left this particular authority unfunded and it was only the alertness of Senator Boley that prevented that from happening.

The I-68 extension should not be abandoned. I understand that it is at least for now a back burner issue, however, at some point in time we need to connect the northern panhandle, preferably at Moundsville, with Morgantown. It is nonsense that truckers and pleasure drivers have to go about 30 miles out of their way and through Pennsylvania to get to Morgantown.

Kessler: I have and will continue to resist the inclusion of southern counties into the Rt. 2 Authority. It was created to focus our energies and resources into the planning and prioritizing necessary to compete for limited highway dollars to improve the transportation infrastructure in the Northern Panhandle region. The inclusion of additional counties to compete for the same dollars will only serve to dilute the effectiveness of the authority and diminish the pool of funds available to serve the mission of the authority itself which is to upgrade the highway system in the Northern Panhandle. I led the charge in the Senate to defeat Senate Bill 72 which was about to become law until I convinced my colleagues to reject the bill on the last night of the 2008 legislative session.

I am not prepared to abandon the I-68 extension. While I realize that federal highway dollars have begun to dry up, too much work and effort has been already undertaken to dismiss the idea entirely. Our focus may need to be on the Rt. 2 upgrades until such time as the federal government recommits additional nationwide highway funding sufficient to undertake the project.

2. What can West Virginia do to attract more business to the Mountain State? How, as a senator, could you help make our business environment more favorable?

Brunner: There are three major problems that must be addressed if we are to attract more business to our state.

First, we need to change our judicial system. That includes continuing with tort reform, eliminating frivolous lawsuits, addressing unreasonable and unjustified jury awards, and instituting a guaranteed review process or creating an appellate court. We also need to have non-partisan elections for judges and magistrates.

Second, the entire tax system should be revamped. Concerning business, personal property tax on equipment, machinery, and inventory should be eliminated. We should explore ways to reduce or eliminate taxes that are unnecessary and/or punitive in nature.

Third, our road system needs to be upgraded. While the topography of West Virginia makes it difficult to have direct routes, we need to find a way to improve and expand our present road system. Concentration should be on safety and having two lanes each way with a divider to prevent head-ons.

Kessler: We should continue our efforts to reduce the business franchise tax and to simplify our tax structure to make it simpler and easier for businesses to navigate. More importantly however, we need to devote additional efforts toward workforce development and training. The companies of the future will gravitate to those states that have an educated, trained, and skilled workforce. Additionally I will introduce legislation to dedicate a portion of our existing severance taxes collected on our natural resources to create a permanent endowment or “West Virginia Future Fund” which could be used only upon efforts to diversify our economy, create wealth in our communities, and reduce the tax burden on our citizens.

3. What makes you the best person to serve our district as one of our senators?

Brunner: Since my plan is to be a one-term Senator I will have the freedom to introduce and vote for legislation that I believe to be in the best interest of the state without concern about what a particular group or the party wants. My priority is to represent the people, not the “power brokers.”

Kessler: I am proud of my record of achievement and accomplishment during my service in the Legislature. As current Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee which controls the public policy initiatives in the Legislature, I have effectively championed legislation to improve the economy of our state and lives of our citizens. For instance, when there was a medical malpractice crisis in 2003 which threatened the availability of medical treatment in the state, I wrote the bill to solve the problem. When our Workers Compensation system was on the verge of collapse, I co-authored the bill which privatized and saved the system. When our economy needed a boost, I spearheaded the $200 million dollar economic development legislation that created hundreds of new projects in our state including the Cabela’s project in Ohio County. When our citizens were frustrated by our divorce and custody laws, I helped create the new Family Court system. All of these have improved the lives of our citizens and standing of our state. In fact just this month it was announced that West Virginia had the fastest growing economy in the nation during the second quarter of 2008. While there is more work to do, I believe we’ve turned the corner and will truly become fastest growing state in the Union over the next decade.