CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — State Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, announced Thursday that he will run for the West Virginia Senate from the 16th district, which includes all Jefferson County and east central Berkeley County.
He filed precandidacy papers for the seat Wednesday in Charleston. He had told The Journal in June that he was seriously considering running for the Senate seat after state Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, who currently represents the 16th district, announced he would not seek re-election, and run for Jefferson County clerk.
“His pulling out didn’t impact my decision,” Espinosa said Thursday in a telephone interview. “I presumed Sen. Snyder would be the Democrats’ nominee. I had made up my mind to focus on the legislative session and not to consider it until after the session.”
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He had been seriously considering a run for the Senate since he was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2012, he said.
“I received a lot of encouragement here and at the Legislature to consider it, but I wanted to focus on the job at hand,” Espinosa said. “I learned the process and developed good relationships and played a leadership role in the House. And I’ve developed good relations in Jefferson and Berkeley counties with the county governments and municipalities, businesses and constituents.”
He was faced with a couple of good options, he said. He could stay in the House, where he had been given leadership opportunities and would expect more leadership opportunities in the future, he said.
“But I think I can have the most positive impact representing the Eastern Panhandle in the Senate,” Espinosa said. “Looking at where we’re at in the Eastern Panhandle with the current representation, we’re strong in the House and Senate, but we don’t have anyone in the majority party representing the 16th district, and I fully expect the Senate to remain under Republican control after the next election.”
The West Virginia Senate was split between 17 Democrats and 17 Republicans on election night 2014. The next day, Sen. Daniel Hall switched parties, giving the GOP an 18-16 majority.
Patricia Rucker of Harpers Ferry has filed to run for the 16th Senate district on the Republican ticket.
“Paul is a good friend,” Rucker said Thursday in a telephone interview. “We’ve worked together and campaigned together. I’m disappointed he is not staying in the House, but I wish him the best of luck.”
Espinosa said that in past campaigns, he has tried to focus on what he brings to the office, rather than on his opponent.
“I’ve tried to run a positive campaign and focus on the issues, such as economic development and education, and be an advocate for limited government and controlling government spending,” he said. “I do not take anything for granted. I plan to work hard on a grass roots campaign, to meet as many voters as I can to understand their concerns. I don’t take anything for granted.”
Espinosa, 53, is a native of Charles Town. He and his wife, Cathy, have three children. He is general manager of Frontier Communications.
He serves as an assistant majority whip of the House of Delegates and as vice chair of the House Committee on Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. Espinosa chairs the Joint Interim Technology Committee and the Legislative Oversight Commission on Workforce Investment for Economic Development.
State Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, has announced his intention to run for the 16th Senate district, also. He narrowly defeated Rucker in his re-election bid last year for the 67th District.
The West Virginia primary election is May 10, 2016. The general election is Nov. 8.
– Staff writer John McVey can be reached at 304-263-3381, ext. 128.