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NAME: Ben Salango
CANDIDATE FOR: West Virginia Governor
CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: BenSalango.com
HOME CITY: Charleston
HOME COUNTY: Kanawha
EDUCATION: Political Science from West Virginia University (1994); J.D. from West Virginia University College of Law (1998); Shady Spring High School (1991).
CURRENT OFFICE OR OCCUPATION: Kanawha County Commissioner
OTHER WORK HISTORY: Attorney, founding partner of Preston & Salango, PLLC; Founder and Owner, 304Tees.
CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS: Member, Kanawha County Democratic Executive Committee; Youth Coach, South Hills Soccer Association, U8-U10 Sharks (2014-2018) -- 4X County Champions; Youth Coach, YMCA Tee Ball (2011-2012); Sponsor, 2020 Gazette-Mail Regional Spelling Bee; Sponsor, WV Childhood Cancer 5k; Sponsor, Diaper Drop Charities; Sponsor, CAMC Foundation We Can Climb Program (2018, 2019); Sponsor, WV Breast Health Initiative 5K (2018, 2019); Sponsor, West Virginia Alliance FC (2019); Sponsor, Blue Knights Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club to benefit the Donald C. Kinnard veteran’s cemetery. (2015-2018); Sponsor, WV Chaos Soccer (2018); Sponsor of dozens of youth sports teams in Kanawha and Raleigh Counties including basketball, baseball, soccer, wrestling, boxing, cheerleading, and gymnastics.; Sponsor, Operation Reach Out for Crime Victims’ Rights Week (2018); Sponsor, Mountaineer Flood Relief to raise money for flood victims (July 2016); Sponsor, South Hills Youth Basketball League (2017-2018); Sponsor, Great Kanawha Valley Little League (2014-2018); Sponsor, PRO-Kids, Inc., providing afterschool tutoring and enrichment programs for students in Charleston’s East End. (2016-2019); Sponsor, McTrooper 5k in conjunction with Ronald McDonald House and the West Virginia State Police.; Sponsor, Run/Walk for Justice in support of crime victims in Kanawha County. (2015, 2016); Sponsor, Big Brothers Big Sisters Christmas Party. (December 2016); Sponsor, Guns and Hoses Softball Tournament to benefit the Make-a-Wish Foundation.; Sponsor, Kanawha County Deputy Sheriff Association Golf Tournament.; Sponsor, IN-VEST Initiative to help purchase bullet proof vests for local law enforcement. (November 2012).
ENDORSEMENTS: U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, Former Governor Gaston Caperton, West Virginia AFL-CIO, Teamsters, West Virginia School Service Personnel, Retired Major General Allen Tackett, West Virginia Sheriffs’ Association PAC, Upper Ohio Valley Building Trades, West Virginia Professional Firefighters, IUPAT-Painters and Allied Trades, WV Appalachian Laborers’ District Council, Operating Engineers Local 132, South Charleston Firefighters Local 837, Charleston Firefighters Local 317, Parkersburg Area Building Trades, Ironworkers, Communications Workers of America, United Steelworkers.
FAMILY: wife, Tera; two sons, T.J. and Caden.
PERSONAL STATEMENT: I’m a Kanawha County Commissioner, attorney, and small business owner. I’ve spent my career fighting for the little guy and working families. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty in order to do what’s right for West Virginia. As commissioner, I secured 12 weeks of paid family leave for workers, created union jobs, cleared the waitlist for seniors who needed hot meals, and built the Shawnee Sports Complex. As governor, I will protect people with pre-existing conditions and keep our rural hospitals open. Health care must be affordable and accessible for West Virginia families.
Questions from the West Virginia League of Women Voters:
1. With the decline in extraction industries in West Virginia, what do you think should be done to diversify the state’s economy?
I started a program in Kanawha County that turns the unemployed into entrepreneurs with small business loans, I want to do the same all over West Virginia. I will strengthen our workforce by expanding vocational and technical skills training for in-demand fields. I will also expand access to broadband to help new businesses thrive.
2. Do you support weakening the EPA regulations concerning air and water quality? Why or why not?
We don’t have to choose between jobs and safe water and clean air. I want all West Virginians to have clean drinking water and preserve our pristine wilderness for tourism. I believe that we must strike a balance between economic development and protecting our way of life.
3. What role do you see for state government in reversing West Virginia’s population decline?
We must create opportunities for our young people to stay here and build careers. I will do that through improving vocational and technical training and expanding access to broadband. I support student loan reduction initiatives and a first-time homebuyer tax credit to incentivize people to stay.
Additional questions from The Herald-Dispatch:
4. The state’s foster care system struggles to care for the 7,000 plus children who are now in it. Some action has been taken in recent months, but what further action do you think might be necessary?
The DHHR is too big and bureaucratic. That’s why I will establish a cabinet-level position, the Secretary of Childhood Advocacy. We must provide more funding for the foster voucher system. I will fight for 12 weeks of paid family leave for all public employees welcoming the birth of a child, including adoptions and foster children, and grandparents taking care of grandchildren.
5. There have been several attempts to reduce taxes on business in the state, including one failed in this past legislative session. Is it wise to keep pursuing tax breaks for business, at the possible expense of residential taxpayers? Do you think the state’s tax structure needs an overhaul?
I don’t support corporate giveaways that shift the tax burden to working families. West Virginians are taxed enough already. We need a fair tax code that will put workers at the front of the line.
6. Do you think the educational reform bill passed in 2019 is working/will be effective?
I’m opposed to charter schools because they drain money from public education. Our teachers need the freedom to teach. We need to stop micromanaging our educators from Charleston and give them the respect they deserve. We must increase pay for teachers and school service personnel.
7. How would you describe efforts so far to add more support staff in the state’s schools to help children in troubled homes?
Every school in West Virginia should have a dedicated social worker and school counselor. I think that there should be a CPS worker in every school so that there are wrap-around services for at-risk children.
8. What can the state government do to improve workforce development in West Virginia?
I will make West Virginia the strongest state in the country for vocational and job skills training. We need training facilities across the state that can prepare students and out-of-work adults for new opportunities. I want to give students the ability to earn an associate degree when they graduate high school.
9. West Virginia has been especially hard hit by the opioid abuse epidemic. What do you see as the role of the legislature in addressing this crisis?
We need comprehensive treatment options that will help people get themselves clean and receive skills training to re-enter the workforce. Right now there aren’t enough long-term treatment options. I will make West Virginia a leader in drug treatment in order to revive our workforce.
10. How would you improve the state’s access to broadband internet?
We must invest in broadband infrastructure and partner with the federal government to expand access in rural communities. I will establish a public ombudsman to advocate for consumers regarding internet service complaints. West Virginia must hold corporations accountable that fail to live up to their promises. No one should have to pay a bill for a service that doesn’t work.
NEW GENERAL ELECTION QUESTIONS
11. What changes would you recommend for responding to any future state emergencies such as COVID-19 which would increase overall preparedness and assist those affected by the emergency?
As governor, I will always listen to the medical experts and our frontline workers. I would spend existing CARES Act funding and get it out the door to alleviate suffering. I would have a proactive plan for a vaccine distribution. Lastly, I would advocate for further aid to help communities stockpile for PPE and sanitation supplies for any future outbreaks.
12. How would you prioritize using the funds provided to West Virginia by the CARES Act and other COVID-19 relief funds?
I would spend every penny of the $1.25 billion federal relief we received on helping people. West Virginia small businesses and workers should be at the front of the line. I would build the capacity so that every test is processed in state and adequate PPE distributed. I would also make sure our educators and students have everything they need
13. Lack of broadband access limits employment and educational opportunities in many parts of West Virginia. What should be done to make broadband available statewide?
Access to broadband is essential for students, businesses, and anyone else trying to compete in the 21st century. As governor, I will expand broadband access across West Virginia. Whether you live at the head of a holler or in a downtown neighborhood, a Salango administration will fight to make sure you can access broadband.
14. What do you hope to accomplish as Governor?
I am dedicated to moving West Virginia forward by prioritizing investments in public education, creating more jobs in the Mountain State, protecting health care, fixing the roads, and combating the opioid epidemic. I will always be a trusted fighter for West Virginia’s working families.
15. What experience, training or education do you have that would make you an effective Governor?
As a lawyer for over twenty years, I have fought for working people and held the powerful accountable. A Kanawha County Commissioner, I’ve made economic development and job creation a top priority. I passed 12 weeks of paid family leave, HERO pay for first responders, and put people to work when others said it wasn’t possible.