WHEELING - Republican candidate for West Virginia Secretary of State Brian Savilla said he puts more than 2,000 miles a week on his 2003 Toyota Corolla, and he drove into Ohio County recently with the "check engine" light flashing.
The car already has more than 200,000 miles on it, has hit both a possum and a raccoon during its travels, and has been struck by another car, he said.
Savilla, who represents Putnam County in the West Virginia House of Delegates, responded the way he thought best to the "check engine" alert. He took out a photo of his nieces and placed it over the flashing light.
"I was having a bad day, and it made me smile," Savilla said.
He said he is a "positive person" who likes to focus on the positive - and proper maintenance for the car has been scheduled.
Savilla, 30, works as a substitute teacher focusing on high school civics when he is not serving in the Legislature. He is completing his first term in the House but said this year's redistricting reshaped his district in such a way that he would have had to run against Republican colleagues he respects if he sought re-election.
"Instead, I thought I would move up the ladder and run against someone I don't respect - the secretary of state," Savilla said.
He will face Democrat incumbent Natalie Tennant in the Nov. 6 election.
"The secretary of state's office has been overrun by bad policies and activities," Savilla said. "We needed someone to step up and take on the role to fix the office."
He favors having to show identification to vote in West Virginia.
"That's the biggest change we can make to the elections process to bring back voter trust," he said.
Savilla said if elected he also would restore the Secretary of State's investigations department, which has been cut from three people to a single employee under Tennant.
Savilla once worked as an information technology specialist and helped install computers in schools for the state SUCCESS program. He then attended West Virginia State University and graduated in 2006 with a degree in social studies education. Savilla has opted not to take a permanent teaching position while he serves in the Legislature.
He is engaged to be married next year.
"I don't feel it's right to take on a full-time job and serve in the Legislature," he said. "I would miss out on the school year (while serving in the Legislature) - and that's not fair to students. Of course, I take a big pay cut to do the job."
Savilla said he wants "to serve the people."
"I am completely honest with my personal life and what I do in politics," he said. "Anytime someone wants to reach me to speak, I will do my best to accommodate them. I am a public servant, and that's what I want to do. I have nothing to hide, everything to show and nothing to gain. I want to be a real person in politics - not just a fake character. ... Yes, I wish politicians would be more honest and not always give the politically correct answer. There's too much political correctness and not enough honest, open politics."