Voters in the Northern Panhandle on Tuesday returned four to the West Virginia Legislature, re-electing Democrat Jack Yost of Wellsburg to the state Senate and Democrats Randy Swartzmiller of New Cumberland and Ronnie Jones of Weirton to the state House of Delegates.
They also elected Phil Diserio, a Democrat of Follansbee, to the seat in the House of Delegates for which he was appointed earlier this year.
Yost defeated Republican challenger Pat McGeehan of Chester for a seat representing the 1st Senate District, which includes Hancock, Brooke and Ohio counties and part of Marshall County.
Yost received 5,337 votes in Hancock County, 6,324 votes in Brooke County, 9,906 votes in Ohio County and 650 votes in Marshall County. McGeehan received 6,356 votes in Hancock County, 2,702 votes in Brooke County, 6,893 votes in Ohio County and 556 votes in Marshall County.
All totals are unofficial until ballots are canvassed.
"I appreciate the vote of confidence. I'm very humbled and prepared to go to work," Yost said.
He said issues he hopes to address in the upcoming legislative session include identifying funding for much needed repairs to the state's highways and roads and overcrowding in prisons. He said the latter is an economic concern, as well as a social one, because counties paid nearly $50 per day for each inmate they send.
Swartzmiller and Jones were re-elected to seats representing the 1st Delegate District, which includes Hancock County and part of Brooke County.
Swartzmiller received 7,588 votes in Hancock County and 1,399 votes in Brooke County, while Jones received 5,733 votes in Hancock County and 1,340 votes in Brooke County. Their Republican challengers were Carl Thompson of Weirton, who received 4,061 Hancock County votes and 1,024 Brooke County votes; and Justin Bull of Weirton, who received 2,879 Hancock County votes and 738 Brooke County votes.
Jones noted the portion of Brooke County served by the two has grown with redistricting by the state Legislature earlier this year, a move that also resulted in Brooke County losing one of its two House seats.
For that reason, Jones, who also serves as a Weirton councilman, said he and Swartzmiller must ensure the needs and concerns of Brooke County residents are addressed.
Jones, who will begin his second term in the House in January, said, "I really love my job. It's been a really good experience. I'm happy the voters voted to give me a second term."
Swartzmiller, who will enter his seventh term in the House, said, "I'm very humbled by the continued support I received tonight.
He said he will continue to be a voice for local residents and businesses, see that the state's budget is balanced and its debt reduced.
Swartzmiller said, "The Northern Panhandle is well positioned for economic development, but we need to free up some property, such as unused Weirton Steel sites. Creating opportunities for development and jobs has always been a top priority for me."
Diserio was appointed by Gov. Early Ray Tomblin to fill a seat representing the 2nd Delegate District, which includes Brooke County and part of Ohio County, following the resignation of Tim Ennis, who left to become a Brooke County commissioner.
Diserio received 3,325 votes in Brooke County and 81 votes in Ohio County, while Republican challenger Lynn Davis of Wellsburg received 2,972 votes in Brooke County and 174 votes in Ohio County.
Diserio said while he was disappointed by the lower support in Ohio County, he appreciates all who did support him. He said he will work to make economic development and job opportunities possible in the area.