Nelson, Robinson vying for open Senate seat

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two members of the House of Delegates hope to grab the 17th District state Senate seat in the Nov. 3 General Election.

The Kanawha County match-up features Republican Eric Nelson, 10-year member of the House and Democrat Andrew Robinson, a House member for four years.

The Senate seat has been held for the last 12 years by Senator Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, who decided not to seek reelection.

Nelson, who announced his intentions before Palumbo made his final decision, said building the area’s economy must be the top priority heading forward.

“We’ve had a population loss and a population loss statewide. What do you do to stop that? You put new activities out,” Nelson said.

The COVID-19 pandemic may provide new opportunities for the area, Nelson said.

“We can go out and recruit out of state people who want to come into a beautiful place and with all of our outdoor activities that we have here in the county and some of our law changes like to allow for (alcohol sales) Sunday Brunch. Those are the kinds of things that will attract youth,” Nelson said.

Robinson said his top priorities remain the same and will still need addressed after the pandemic.

“We have to get back to building our economy, building our skilled workforce and fighting back against the drug epidemic and giving opportunities for recovery all over the state,” Robinson said.

The race is one of nine Senate races being targeted by the group Mountain State Values. The political action committee has spent nearly $3 million this election cycle against Republican candidates for Senate like Nelson in an attempt to flip control of the upper chamber from Republican to Democrat. The GOP currently holds a 20 to 14 edge.

The ads have said Nelson backed raising the consumers sales tax and opposed funding for police safety equipment. He calls the ads “false negatives.”

“I have not been nor will be for raising consumer sales tax,” Nelson said.

Nelson said a bill he supported doubled funding for the police.

Meanwhile, in response, Nelson’s been running his own negative ads of late against Robinson calling into question the delegate’s experience and family. Robinson said he wants to focus on policy and ideas.

“We need to stick to things that the two of us have supported on not supported in the past. If we can stay away from personal attacks we’d be better off,” Robinson said.

Nelson, who was chairman of the House Finance Committee for four years, said he has the edge on Robinson in experience, leadership and family values. Robinson said he holds a “large work ethic” advantage over Nelson.

Nelson was the lead sponsor on four bills in the 2020 legislative session and three were signed into law. Robinson, whose party is in the minority in the House, was the lead sponsor on seven bills, none of which passed.

Nelson has pointed out that record in recent ads. Robinson said it’s misleading.

“If you compare our records, especially my opponent’s time in the minority, I believe you’ll see my batting average is well above where his was,” Robinson said.

The 17th District covers most all of Kanawha County.

The 10-day early voting for the Nov. 3 General Election begins Wednesday in the Mountain State.