Ron Walters Jr. joins crowded GOP race for Congress
POCA -- It's common for politicians in West Virginia to decry regulations created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, disavow a so-called "war on coal" and pledge a renewed focus on job creation.
Republican Ron Walters Jr. hit all three Tuesday at a rainy announcement ceremony kicking off his campaign for the second district seat. The 29-year-old first-time candidate said his small business experience helps him stand apart from other GOP candidates in the race.
"I think my background as a small business operator ... I have a lot of background working on a budget, working together with people, and I hope to bring that to Washington to break the partisan gridlocks and political posturing that's been going on for years, stifling small business owners..." Walters said Tuesday morning.
He works as a financial consultant at R.N. Walters & Associates, a firm founded and owned by his father, Ron Walters Sr.
Ron Walters Jr. doesn't own the company, but he said he runs the day-to-day operations, manages the firm's finances and deals with other aspects of running a business.
Walters Jr., who earned his undergraduate degree from West Virginia University in 2007 and a masters from the University of London-Royal Holloway in 2010, said his experience with economics and finances would serve the district well.
Walters Jr. said his primary goal would be stopping regulations that kill jobs and devastate the economy. He didn't specify any regulations, but later bemoaned EPA regulations' effects on the private sector. Removing those regulations and creating a simpler tax system will help small businesses and encourage more West Virginians to stay and work in the state, he said.
"How could we ever hope to retain our best and brightest, if we can't provide basic infrastructure necessary for the 21st century?" Walters Jr. said. "We need to do more to stop the brain drain of our kids."
He also wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- commonly known as Obamacare -- and downsize government.
About 15 people attended the ceremony, the latest in a string of announcements by Republicans vying for the seat. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., represents the district now, but announced she will run for Senate next year. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said earlier this year he would not seek re-election.
Earlier in the year former Maryland lawmaker and GOP party chairman Alex Mooney moved to the state to run for Congress. Former Kanawha County delegate and presidential appointee Charlotte Lane officially started her own campaign Monday, with other Republicans -- including Kanawha County Delegate Suzette Raines -- looking at entering the race.
During her event, Lane stressed experience as an important asset for a candidate. Former West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Mike Stuart did the same, saying the district can't afford to have someone who's learning on the job.
Everyone needs to prepare before they're ready for Congress, Walters Jr. said.
"It's a situation where, if you think you're going to walk into this job regardless of your amount of experience and think it's going to be a cakewalk, I think you're sadly mistaken," he said.
"I think everyone is going to be learning on the job a little bit, there's a massive learning curve."
Walters Jr. will look to his family to help ease his transition into the political sphere. His father is a Republican who represents Kanawha County in the House of Delegates, and his brother, Chris, is a Republican representing Putnam County in the state Senate.
They also have family members in the Eastern Panhandle, which Walters Jr. said would help in his ability to connect with voters through the large second congressional district. Walters Jr. said he also plans to attend as many events throughout the district as possible.
The candidate hired Mercury, a Washington-based public affairs company, to help with the campaign.
Fundraising is still in the early stages, Walters Jr. said. He didn't give a specific amount for how much he hoped to raise, but said he expected an expensive race.