57 years old; 7th generation West Virginian, grew up in Martinsburg, Charles Town resident since 2000; Democratic Party candidate
Community Service Experience — Juvenile Drug Court, Criminal Justice Board of Berkeley and Jefferson Counties, Charles Town Now (previously the Charles Town Initiative) , Shenandoah-Potomac Garden Council of Berkeley & Jefferson Counties (president)
Work Experience & Education — Co-owner, co-founder of Full Circle Healing Center, a licensed behavioral health center that treats mental health and addictions. BS degree from Shepherd College (political science/communications)
The candidate’s responses below were edited only for clarity & spelling.
What made you decide to run for Delegate?
I’m running for Delegate to give voters a choice. The residents of the 99th District are diverse and deserve to be fully represented.
What should local residents expect from a state Delegate?
Being an effective and well-rounded Delegate requires listening to the concerns of all constituents. The issues I hear about most from folks in my district are alarmingly basic; access to healthcare, good-paying jobs, high-speed internet, and quality public education. The citizens of the 99th deserve a representative who will invest in their success and fight for the resources our communities need.
What priorities would you advocate for in the legislature?
The gap between the priorities of the Eastern Panhandle and Charleston is often wide. In recent legislative sessions, local control has been under attack. Many bills introduced have attempted to hamstring our municipalities, county commissions, health departments, and schools. This causes the citizens of Jefferson County to suffer while the current state leadership consolidates power. Local decisions should be made by the elected officials of that locality; I will fight for the unique needs of my district. Jefferson County has a large agricultural industry which makes it attractive to residents and visitors alike. Our development should reflect that.
As an individual, I am accessible to constituents and willing to work with anyone who wants to advance the interests of the 99th District – no matter their party affiliation. My life and family have always been anchored in West Virginia, and it would be an honor to be your voice in Charleston. From the policy details to the values I represent, I will conduct myself with the utmost respect for the office and my duty to represent my constituents.
Is there specific recent WV legislation (enacted) that you disagree with and would look to modify?
I disagree with the recent approval of micro-schools. There are no regulations regarding student safety, size of the student body, or educational benchmarks. Across the nation, micro-schools and learning pods were mostly born out of parental frustration with education during the pandemic. Private micro-schools and learning pods can be expensive to operate and sometimes charge pricey tuition. Therefore, businesses that operate nation-wide micro-schools have developed. There are also attempts to siphon public education money to fund micro-schools and learning pods. These models are sometimes associated with attempts to privatize public education.
Charter schools are publicly-funded schools that operate with a degree of autonomy. To me, charter schools challenge the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by attempting to return to “separate but equal.” Importantly, there is no definitive research proving that charter, micro, or private schools have substantially better outcomes on average than public schools.
I support locality pay for teachers. It is so obvious to us in border counties, especially Jefferson, that teachers can make a short drive to earn an additional $20,000 a year or even more.
Legislative attempts to fix our foster care system have not been effective, further neglecting the safety of children in our state. I will make our state’s most vulnerable children our top priority. West Virginia does not have enough foster families nor does West Virginia have enough treatment options for youth suffering from mental illness. Sending these children to out of state facilities is not a safe alternative, and yet West Virginia does not have the resources to vet these out of state facilities.
I disagree with any legislation that reduces water quality standards or puts public drinking water at risk of contamination.
Is there specific recent WV legislation (not enacted) that you would like to re-introduce?
I would like to reintroduce capping insulin prices and reducing the sales tax to provide direct relief to families struggling with inflation on the rise.
The legislature is likely to take up debate on several issues affected by recent court decisions or left unresolved from prior sessions. What thoughts can you share with voters?
I support the Bill of Rights, including the right to marital privacy and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) protections. Healthcare is between a patient and medical provider.
This summer the state legislature came to an impasse over competing bills to lower taxes. HB301 supports the Governor’s plan to reduce income tax by 10 percent. SB303 eliminates the tangible personal property taxes, but voters need to approve this under Amendment 2 in November. I believe that HB301 was the best solution because it put money into people’s pockets. SB303 eliminates or reduces taxes in six categories of tangible personal property. However, this is at the expense of local authority because SB303 gives control of this process to state lawmakers. As the Governor pointed out, it turns control of a significant chunk of county budgets over to the legislature with no guarantees that they will continue to replace the local tax revenue losses. I agree with the Governor on this one, that it’s a big risk.
Why should voters elect you?
As a seventh generation West Virginian and an owner of two small businesses in Charles Town, I’m invested in the community and care about our citizens. I live here with my husband George IV, son George V, and dog Emmitt. After earning a degree from Shepherd University, I’ve enjoyed a career in journalism and business. Freedom of Choice is the bedrock of democracy so I’m running to give voters that choice. My legislative priorities include maintaining local control of tax dollars and development, addressing the addiction and mental health crisis, locality pay for public servants, and making sure children in foster care are safe. I ask for your vote. Thank you.
Debra Cornwell – West Virginia Delegate District 99
Facebook: Cornwell for Delegate; Instagram: cornwell_for_delegate; Twitter: @DebraLHCornwell; Email: CornwellForDelegate@gmail.com; Tel (cell): 703-599-9525
About West Virginia House of Delegates District 99
The 100 members of West Virginia’s House of Delegates are elected every two years. The 99th Delegate District includes the City of Charles Town, the subdivisions around Huntfield, Tuscawilla, Locust Hill, and Mechanicstown, as well as the subdivisions off of Flowings Springs Road and Old Country Club Road
In the 2022 general election, there are two candidates running in Delegate District 99:
Wayne Clark (currently serving as a Delegate) is the Republican Party candidate.
Debra Cornwell is the Democratic Party candidate.Staff Contributor