Meet the candidates for the W. Virginia House of Delegates 12th District

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) – With the election just days away, we continue to unveil the candidates for each race.

And the 12th district for the West Virginia House of Representatives could mean a lot of changes in the area.

The seat is currently held by Republican Vernon Criss.

Criss has held the position since 2016 and says he has been in and out of politics for the past 35 years.

Criss is a fourth generation owner and resident of Parkersburg. The House Delegate says his experience and the bodies he serves on is what makes him the best qualified.

“My experience, being able to sit down with outsiders of the state to make sure they have a consistent and quality legislative program to bring new businesses into the area is the most important factor, I think,” Criss says.

Criss serves on the Finance, Health and Banking Committees and is Vice Chair of the Finance and Banking Committees.

Criss says that if he wins, his main focus will be inflation and new business opportunities in the region.

Criss’ Democratic opponent is Jonathan Defibaugh Jr.

Defibaugh says he is a 23-year-old resident of Parkersburg and is currently finishing his senior semester at West Virginia University in Parkersburg, working part-time.

He says he’s always been interested in politics and believes changes need to be made in politics when it comes to who serves the public by age but also by background.

He wants to look for ways to keep more young people in West Virginia.

“We should push harder for younger people to participate in politics and elections. And have their interests represented,” says Defibaugh. “But there really aren’t many opportunities here, especially financially and economically. Unless you work at the Federal Debt or the few shops downtown, or get a decent factory job, there’s really nothing here but retail or fast food. Well, a lot of people do their education here, they get it cheap and then they leave. So if maybe some bigger companies would invest in smaller companies that offer residency scholarships, I think that would all be good. Just giving young people a reason to settle here, rather than it being some kind of cheap last resort for a lot of people.”

Defibaugh says his three main areas of focus if he wins will be work, health and bipartisanship in government.

And there is also a third candidate in this race.

Joining the previous two is libertarian Stephen Smith.

Smith says he is a Parkersburg Lifer and has spent most of his life as an accountant and finance manager for a variety of area companies. He was also a Professor of Accounting at West Virginia University in Parkersburg and is now retired.

Smith says he wants to bring a fresh perspective to governance in the 12th District.

“Government is not like a corporation. People say, ‘Run like a company.’ Well, I understand that it means being careful about how you spend money and I think that’s important, but the motivation is different. We’re not trying to make a profit in government, we’re trying to provide services,” says Smith. “I believe that services are an important part of what the state does. So I feel like I have a management background in dealing with people, organizations and teams and I can be effective in this job.”

Smith says he has a keen interest in the future of West Virginia and if he wins he will look for new employment opportunities in the area. Especially for younger people.

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