Incumbent Maroney, Challenger Gary Seek Senate District 2 Seat
MOUNDSVILLE – An embattled state senator seeks to retain his seat after his first term in office representing West Virginia Senate District 2.
Dr. Michael Maroney, a Republican, is the current state senator representing the district. He faces a challenge from Democrat Josh Gary in the Nov. 3 general election.
n Maroney, of Glen Dale, called his first term in the Senate productive, with the first two years spent settling in, and the last two being a whirlwind of productivity. Maroney pointed to a foster care bill — House Bill 2010 — that passed in March 2019 as one of his proudest accomplishments.
“That was my baby in 2019,” Maroney said. “We worked on it for months, and when it went to the floor, it was going to be a party line vote, 20 to 14, and I was told that by the Democrats. After I presented the bill, fielded questions — about three hours of discussions and questions — the final tally was 23-1.”
Maroney added that West Virginia had so many children in foster care out-of-state that it prompted an investigation and lawsuit by the federal Department of Justice, which was averted through the passage of the bill. Maroney said he considered the DOJ’s lawsuit a distant secondary objective of passing it, compared to helping children.
“We’ve got to make it as good as possible, anything that could help foster children was in that bill, and stayed in that bill until it crossed the finish line,” he said.
If re-elected, Maroney said his number one priority would be working on passing a bill to address the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to drag on after more than half a year with no realistic end in sight. Maroney speculated that vaccines for the disease would not become widely available until 2022, and the expected rate that vaccines would be taken would be around 50 percent, far below what would be required for herd immunity.
With the goal of decentralizing oversight of pandemic protocols and returning power to the state Legislature, Maroney said he hopes any prospective pandemic bill would put more power in the hands of the public’s representatives, rather than those of the governor.
“We cannot have a situation where we have one person making all the decisions, that’s the problem we have. The governor has powers given to him by the state’s constitution. There are other powers that he’s been exercising that he doesn’t have, but they haven’t been given to anybody. So any powers not expressly given to the West Virginia governor, regarding what they can do during a pandemic, the Legislature has to grab them,” he said.
“If we have power in the Senate and the House, the people have that power, therefore the people have that input over how things are shutting down, when they’re shutting down,” he added. “All this stuff has to go through the House and Senate, then the governor.”
Maroney, 51, is a graduate of John Marshall High School, West Virginia University and Marshall University’s School of Medicine. He is a radiologist.
n Gary seeks to unseat Maroney, running on the Democrat ticket. Gary, who has a background in education, said he seeks to make the state pay more attention to the demands of workers in that field.
“Some things need changed. We haven’t really been listening to the state workers, and we had to go on strike twice to get them to listen to us,” Gary said, referring to a pair of teachers’ strikes in early 2018 and 2019, which concerned a variety of issues, including teacher pay and the Senate Bill 451 education omnibus.
“It seems like special interests seem to be in charge in Charleston, and I feel like I could make a positive change, and bring some good, positive ideas. I believe it’s past time that we make those changes,” he said.
Gary, 41, is a civics and history teacher at John Marshall High School, and has been teaching for 20 years. He is married with two daughters and resides in McMechen. He is president of the Marshall County chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.
He said his connections to the education field would help him at the political level.
“I really feel like my connections and experience I have in working with my local and state union have really prepared me for what’s going on, and I have taught civics for many years, so I think I’m very prepared for the inner workings of government. I think it would be within my wheelhouse.”
Gary said he would like to focus on tackling ongoing issues with the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency.
“I’d also really like to focus on infrastructure issues, both water and roads. We’re working with stuff that was designed in the 1950s and 1960s … and it’s nice that places like McMechen have secured funding to begin rebuilding things, but there are a lot of places that are struggling, and we need to work on that. Basic necessities like running water and working sewage are things everyone should have, and we need to start working on that in the state,” he said.