WEIRTON - Voters in Hancock County and northern Brooke County will elect two delegates in 2012.
Three Democrats are seeking their party's nomination to represent the 1st Delegate District in the May 8 primary election.
Incumbent Randy Swartzmiller, 51, of Chester was first elected to the House in 2000, and is serving in his sixth term. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from the former West Liberty State College, and achieved a master's degree from Mountain State University.
Swartzmiller is the assistant majority whip in the house, and chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. He stands behind the state lawmakers' actions to land a cracker plant for West Virginia.
"From the state perspective, we did everything we could - and probably more," Swartzmiller said. "We offered one of biggest financial packages ever offered in the state ... But it came down to lacking enough property at the end of day. We don't seem to have the right terrain, and it costs money to move a mountain."
And Swartzmiller noted he still hasn't given up on the cracker plant coming to West Virginia, as there are environmental concerns at the Pennsylvania location.
As for safety, Swartzmiller termed natural gas drilling "a proven industry."
"We haven't seen a lot of it here over the years, and it is new to people here," he said. "But a lot of the procedures, and technology they have been using for years out west.
"My biggest concern is not so much the drilling, but more so with the roads. There are traffic problems on roads not designed to handle that much traffic."
Incumbent Ronnie Jones, 58, of Weirton also is a member of Weirton City Council. He serves on a number of the city's boards, including the park board, water board, planning commission, and the city's boys and girls clubs. The Weir High graduate is retired from the Weirton Area Water Board.
Jones doesn't believe all is lost for the Northern Panhandle if Shell Energy's cracker plant locates to its proposed location in western Pennsylvania.
"They did everything they could," he said of the state's leaders. "Gov. Tomblin worked very hard. It is not very far away - just 15 minutes away. I think will get some of the business spilling over from the plant, and that will help us in Chester."
Jones added he is "not really not up to speed" on the expected concerns resulting from natural gas drilling.
"I know we're going to have problems," he said. "But people seem to think we're going to get it, and we have to be ready. We have to welcome them and have the infrastructure ready."
Jones said more jobs and businesses are needed in the Northern Panhandle, and he hopes more development will emanate into Weirton from the Three Springs Drive area.
The third Democrat, Marilyn Boyd, couldn't be reached for comment. Also, two Republicans, Justin Bull and Carl Thompson, are running unoppposed in the 1st District on the GOP ballot.
Just one delegate will be elected this year in the 2nd District, encompassing most of Brooke County and the West Liberty section of Ohio County. Delegate Phil Diserio, D-Brooke, and Republican Lynn Davis are running unopposed for their respective party's nomination.
Two delegates will be chosen in the 3rd District, including most of Ohio County. Incumbent Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, and Larry Tighe are the candidates running unopposed on the Republican ticket.
Democrat voters, meanwhile, will see the names of Ryan Ferns and Shawn Fluharty running unopposed on the Democrat ballot. Ferns, the incumbent, has withdrawn from the race, and Democrats expect to place a candidate on the ballot in his place prior to the general election.