1st District Candidates Selected for Appointment

The 1st District Senate Replacement Committee met Thursday and selected three candidates for possible appointment to state Senate seat formerly held by Ohio County’s newest commissioner, Orphy Klempa.

Wheeling attorney and Ohio Democrat Party co-chairman Robert “Rocky” Fitzsimmons of Wheeling; former Delegate Sam Love of Weirton; and retired Wheeling Fire Lt. David Palmer were chosen from among 12 candidates applying for the seat.

Committee member Teresa Toriseva said the names will be referred to the office of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who has five days to make an appointment after receiving the names.

Klempa resigned his senate seat effective Dec. 10. He had been elected to a four-year term in 2010.

On Thursday, eight of the 12 candidates applying for the job appeared before the six-member committee at the Follansbee branch of the Brooke County Library. In addition to Fitzsimmons, Love and Palmer, those in attendance included Wheeling residents Frank Calabrese, former Ohio County Magistrate Rose Humway, James Radcliffe and Harry Sacco, and Sean Lauritzen of New Cumberland.

Those applying but not addressing the committee Thursday were Cynthia Hutchison-McNally; Elizabeth Paulhus; former Wheeling Councilman James Tiu; and Robert Wycherley.

Fitzsimmons told the committee he is 33 and grew up in Warwood. He is a graduate of Wheeling Central Catholic High School and Washington University, where he studied biochemical engineering. He then earned his law degree from Wake Forest University before returning to Wheeling in 2004.

“I was unique,” he said. “I had an opportunity to return to this area and find work. … In West Virginia, we may think our biggest export is coal, but I would say it’s human capital.”

Fitzsimmons noted he has been involved with politics since returning to Wheeling in 2004, and he believes he would be a strong candidate for the Senate seat in 2014.

Love served 14 years representing Hancock County beginning in 1983, and he was chairman of the Natural Resources Committee for 12 years. He served as Hancock County Assessor for four years, and since leaving the assessor’s office has worked as a lobbyist in Charleston representing such clients as the West Virginia Firemen’s Association and the ATV dealers.

He worked for 31 years at Weirton Steel as an electronics technician.

“During my time in the legislature, I brought many projects to Hancock County,” he said. “(These included) major improvements to Tomlinson Run State Park – boat ramp, public hunting lands bought with state dollars. I brought a lot of money to Hancock County, and I feel that as a state senator I can do a lot for the 1st District.”

Palmer became an Ohio County sheriff’s deputy at age 20 and later joined the Wheeling Fire Department. He retired earlier this year after 25 years with the department.

During his time with the fire department, he served as president of Wheeling Firefighters Local 12, and was tapped as the secretary-treasurer for the Professional Firefighters of West Virginia.

“I have spent countless hours in the Capitol roaming the halls,” Palmer said. “I have been involved with numerous pieces of legislation we were attempting to pass – but not always passing. … One of the things I worked on was was preserving (firefighters’) rights as citizens to be politically active.”

The 1st District encompasses Hancock, Brooke, Ohio and a portion of Marshall County – though it did not include Marshall County when Klempa was elected in 2010 to the four-year term that expires in 2014.

West Virginia law also states that no two senators can reside in the same county. The second 1st District senator is Jack Yost, a Democrat living in Brooke County.

Members of the 1st District Senate Replacement Committee assessing the candidates Thursday were Toriseva and Ohio County Democrat Party Co-Chairman John Saunders representing Ohio County; Brooke County Democrat Chairman John Martino and his wife, Marge Martino, representing Brooke County; and Kristin Cross and Dino Rossi, representing Hancock County.