Congress, Elections

Democrat Steven Wendelin talks with The Dominion Post about his campaign for Alex Mooney’s U.S. House District 2 seat

MORGANTOWN — U.S. Navy veteran Steven Wendelin is seeking the Democratic nomination to vie for the House of Representatives seat held by Rep. Alex Mooney. He talked with The Dominion Post on Wednesday about his campaign.

Wendelin served 39 years in the Navy, retiring in September with the rank of commander. After serving all around the world, he became a West Virginian by choice, he said.

His last post was in the D.C. area, he said, and his wife, Lila, lived in Alexandria, Va. He was looking for a “forever home” in 2018, and West Virginia doesn’t tax military retirement pay, so he came here to look.

“To my absolute surprise and wonder, it is absolutely the most beautiful place I have ever seen.” He bought his Hardy County homestead in 2019. “This is definitely my forever home.”

What led him to run? First, he wasn’t pleased with the representation in his House district. Then, the clincher was the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. “This isn’t the country that I dedicated my entire 39 years to.”

He didn’t need to work, but considered the adage, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.” And he added, “If you don’t at least try, you’re part of the problem, too. … I just look at this as a continuation of my service.”

His campaign website features a list of his top issues and we talked about a few of them.

One is income tax reform. “The tax code is too complicated,” he said, with too many loopholes. “We need to take the tax code out into the parking lot of the Capitol and light it on fire, and we need to start over.”

He sees a code of maybe 15 pages or so, with more of a flat tax that includes accountability for such things as stock market returns and corporate taxes.

“By restructuring, I think we could probably end up lowering everyone’s taxes, if we can just get the ultra-wealthy to pay their fair share.” And the ultra-wealthy may save money over what they’re paying now to avoid taxes.

Tied to tax reform is fiscal responsibility. “A balanced budget on time should be the law of the land.”

Thinking of the military, he said, “If we could just go after the waste, the money that we would save would be phenomenal.” He doesn’t mean cutting troops and supplies and defense capabilities. But trimming the layers of bureaucracy and inefficiency. “We simply need to re-balance things.”

Immigration law also needs a rewrite, he said, with proper vetting and pathways to citizenship so people seeking to come in become taxpayers. “It needs to be completely reformed; it needs to be done humanely.” He noted the hypocrisy of those employing illegals without consequences. “There’s a solution for it if we just sit down and stop screaming at each other.”

Student debt is a hot topic now and Wendelin thinks it would be good to de-privatize student loans and sell government bonds to cover the loans, with fixed interest rates and rates of return, for vocational and academic training.

And one of his favorite topics is campaign finance reform. “We need to stop buying — politicians should not be for sale,” he said. “We need to find a way to get dark and soft money out of politics.”

Fundraising for his grass-roots campaign is not high on his priority list, he said. “Before you vote, look at where did their money come from, how are they raising it and how are they spending it?”

So far, the Federal Election Commission shows that Wendelin is the only Democratic candidate. On the Republican side, state Treasurer Riley Moore is considered the front-runner, but Republicans Joseph Frederick Early, Nate Cain and Alexander Gaaserud are also in the running for the May primary.

Rep. Alex Mooney is vying against Gov. Jim Justice for the U.S. Senate seat, which will be open as Sen. Joe Manchin is not seeking reelection.


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