Find out about Elliot Simon and his views on the proper role of government during the COVID crisis, individual freedoms and much more.
Excerpts from the Interview with Elliot Simon
Elliot Simon: Great, thank you very much for having me here, Richard, and it’s a pleasure. I am indeed running in 67th against John Doyle, he’s been in office for a very, very long time, and I really do think it’d be time for a change. I ran against him 10 years ago, unsuccessfully I might add. And I really think that times are a bit different these days. Been in my house here for 19 years, and I’ve been involved in the community quite a bit. I’m retired, I was in the transportation business, and I did logistics consulting, and IT consulting, and now I’m so busy, I don’t even know how I ever had time for a job…
Richard: I know what you mean.
Elliott Simon: I serve on the executive committee of the local GOP. I’m on the Board of Governors of the Eastern Panhandle Business Association, and I’m the chair of the Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency. So it keeps me pretty busy. And now I’ve been appointed by the Committee to run against John Doyle, and I’m very excited about it.
Richard: I think it’s an exciting race, too. I’ve talked to Mr. Doyle. I have some passions. I met him to chat over some of those. I’m sure we’ll be discussing them. So what do you think is the most important issue facing West Virginia right now?
Elliot Simon: It’s kind of multi-pronged. I was very excited about the progress that we’ve made in terms of getting our economy, which has been a perennial loser for all these years. There was a sea change in the state politics five or six years ago. Actually in 2014, there was a changeover in both houses, and it was finally an opportunity to actually change things and to re-direct policy and to turn our economy around and it was successful. And West Virginia was on the rise and was on the upswing. And our economy, actually in 2017, fastest growing economy in the entire country., We’ve been hit with a bit of a road block with this COVID 19, coronavirus is really how I refer to it. It’s been a problem. I would like to see how we can get our economy back on track and continue the progress that we were enjoying until then.
Richard: With the current mask mandate, and social distancing mandate for stores and places of business, has the governor overstepped his bounds? Of course, we had the different decrees or mandates; stay safer at home. Or do you think he’s doing a pretty good job?
Elliot Simon: He’s trying to walk a very fine line, and it’s a very difficult thing to do. There’s some things he’s done right and there’s some things he’s done wrong. On a matter of general principle, it’s never okay, and it’s never justified and the government just doesn’t even have the authority to tell a business that they have to be closed for a reason that is not sure. This is not a war-time situation, this is a pandemic. And in fact, some people are wondering if it actually fits the definition of a pandemic.
Richard: I totally know what you mean. I’ve been writing on that in my blog too. I saw on your blog, for instance, you were listing the revised death rates like about 0 for under 20 and so on, so I know what you’re saying.
Elliot Simon: So one of the things that he has done recently is that his most recent orders, and it’s not so recent, it’s actually a couple of months ago, where he said that when social distancing is not feasible, wear a mask. But they also acknowledge, he acknowledged, that that’s not enforceable. The problem was picking winners and losers at the beginning as to what’s an essential business and what is not an essential business. The government should never be doing that. But that said, if you’re going to be in a situation where you cannot social distance and you do not trust the environment that you are in where the mask. But don’t wear it for very long. And when you leave and your outdoors, take the mask off. It’s really not that good for you. It traps all that stuff inside of you. It’s actually not good for your immune system. But if a business says that you should wear the mask while you’re in their business, do so, but again, when you get out. I see people jogging and riding bicycles with masks on.
Richard: I hear you. I agree with you on that. As a delegate, will you rewrite the rules, so to speak? Right now, correct me if I’m wrong, there isn’t any time limit on these emergency powers, and they’re defined vaguely in the Code, West Virginia Code. Would you fix that? As a delegate, like make a 30-day limit, so the legislature will come back? And also I have to add one other thing before I turn it over, is that I’m kind of baffled, why hasn’t the legislature come back? Are they afraid to go against Mr. Justice, because they’re mostly Republicans or what’s going on?
Elliot Simon: It’s funny because when he was elected, he was a Democrat. He’s now Republican. It’s an interesting dynamic in and of itself. But the legislature is, I think, in the upcoming session going to address the code that gives the governor, the emergency powers. And you’re right, it should be for a limited period of time, should be for, and I think you’re saying 30 days, I think that’s probably a good period of time. And then after that, it should be up to legislative review. Come in and we’ll do a special session, and I think the legislature is going to look at this in the upcoming session. You’re right.
Richard: I understand what you’re saying, that you would be definitely in favor of putting in place that kind of clear law, where it says 30 days and we’ll have to review. The legislature will have to come to session. Not like now where they have to get, I think it is, what is it? Three-fifths of the legislature or something, but automatically they will come back. Would you say that’s right?
Elliot Simon: Well, you never know what the legislature is going to do or going to get done, and it’s also subject to; I mean the governor could veto a bill that the legislature puts through. But from people that I’ve talked to, the legislature is clearly concerned. There’s some that I’ve spoken to that are concerned and that nobody should have unlimited power, so that’s something to adjust.
Richard: I saw on your blog, the ghost of Jefferson blog, you’re talking about how the Rockwool plant came to be, in the sense about the laws about annexation and so on. Do you want to say anything along those lines or about that issue?
Elliot Simon: In fact, I’m glad you asked, because that’s the Hegelian dialectic almost, at work. So I create a problem, and also then you propose the solution. And that’s sort of like wash, rinse, repeat. One of the things that’s at work here, a general philosophy of government interference in local ordinances, laws. Specifically, it was the zoning. And back in 2001, SB 202 was proposed by then Senator Herb Snyder, supported by John Unger, who’s still in the Senate, and also John Doyle. Well, who I’m running against. And what this did was gave municipalities the authority to annex land to expand the boundaries of their municipality. And so it was called annexation without election. And what it allowed was what they called a minor boundary adjustment. And so the visible result of that legislation was that Charles Town annexed along 340, they went out for several miles, and they grabbed a piece of land that the Sheetz and the Aldi now are on. And the Tractor Supply Store. And there’s also a subdivision there with some townhouses. And people started getting concerned about the fact that Charles Town had defeated the county zoning and the Charles Town zoning took precedence. And unbeknownst to anybody else, while this was going on, Ranson annexed the land that Rockwool was on.
So that happened in 2004, so they proposed to do a fix on that, so in 2009, they said, Okay, no more of these pipe stem annexations. And there was legislation passed that created an urban boundary, an urban growth boundary around those pipe stems and gave the municipalities even more power to annex land. And it wasn’t a fix. And it wasn’t until Senator Rucker introduced legislation in the last session that ended this practice that the problem was solved.
Richard: Is this partially a tax grab? Why did the cities want more land so they can get taxes or Charles Town has a 1% extra tax on sales and also I guess on the property tax, or what’s the motivation behind it?
Elliot Simon: There’s a lot of reasons why any government is going to try and annex land and grow bigger. You’re growing your town and by growing your town, you’re growing the authority of the government, yes. And you are increasing your tax base. So there’s a lot of reasons for it. And it’s an interesting thing is that this is an ongoing battle between the municipality and the county commission association across the state of West Virginia. So there’s sort of like this rivalry between the two levels of government. Because I think that people on the left like cities and they like urban settings, because generally you’ll wind up with city councils that are more liberal and more left leaning. I think partially motivates these kinds of bills. So the result is, is that all of a sudden they throw up their hands and they say, ‘Well, how can this happen, how can Rockwool come here? Well, it’s because of your policies and then because of your leanings and your biases. And the Municipal League is constantly trying to take jurisdiction away from county governments, which have a more rural leaning to them and to give it to the municipalities.
Richard: One thing that I’ve been working on, and actually, this was an issue and that I met with Mr. Doyle about, is the issue of health freedom and/ or vaccination choice. The fact that, as you know, in our state, basically we have a no vaccine, no school policy. And no exemptions. Except extremely hard to get medical exemptions. The question is, would you support allowing parents to have religious and conscientious exemptions: to have their own choice about whether their children, or in work situations, even themselves, would get vaccines?
Elliot Simon: You know, it’s interesting, Richard, there’s on the left, they’re always talking about my body, my choice. Well, you own your own body, and I believe, yes, there should be exemptions because… And especially look at what’s happening now with this Coronavirus. They’re rushing to market the vaccine that is not going to go through the normal testing process.
Richard: I can give a story about that one, so called normal, which isn’t very normal, but go ahead.
Elliot Simon: That’s a big concern to a lot of people. And if you’re going to be injecting chemicals into your body, you really need to know that they are going to be safe. And frankly, since 1986, which is when the legislation as signed into law by then Ronald Reagan. The pharmaceutical companies aren’t subject to the same liability laws that other companies and other industries are. And we really do need to look at that as well.
Richard: Your opponent has stated to me clearly, in case it’s not on record elsewhere, that he is not for removing any of these mandates for vaccinations, so that’s a clear difference between you, on that point.
Elliot Simon: Right, I really do think that a person owns their own body, the government does not own your body. And I’ve also read now that there are studies that show that herd immunity only works when it happens naturally. Look at this Coronavirus. Sweden has achieved herd immunity against the virus by essentially doing nothing. And so I think we really do need to look at the way other people and other governments have handled this situation. And sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing.
Richard: I’m with you on that. The whole thing, that’s part of reason I was asking about Governor Justice. I mean, the whole thing with the schools and these different red, yellow and green zones, and literally, if there’s like, Okay, it’s like a very few cases three cases [3 thousandths of one percent, or.003% with COVID], some random number that might not be the right number, a very small number, then schools have to close or there’s going to be on some kind of alert. I think it’s totally the wrong approach. Like you said, I mean, it’s a virus. It’s like the flu. Can you imagine? I mean, it’s almost like by this logic, we should shut down everything because there’s a bad flu season, which there was two years ago, and it doesn’t make any sense. Where is Governor Justice getting his advice? It’s wrong in my opinion.
Elliot Simon: There are some estimates that there could be tens of millions of people that die if the world goes into a global recession. If the response to the coronavirus throws the world into a global recession then millions of people will die, will starve. In fact, because of the lockdowns, there’s been a spike in suicide rates, drug abuse, domestic violence, sometimes we need to look at the fact that sometimes we don’t see the unintended consequences of our actions, and so sometimes we should try and think things through a little better.
Richard: I’m with you on that. Well, I don’t think it should be a Democrat-Republican issue, but it seems like sometimes Democrats are using it as a weapon, and then the Republicans sometimes… I’m very frustrated about the response in our state in general.
Elliot Simon: I’m biased in that regard. It’s funny, I’ll confess something here to you, Richard, I was a Democrat for most of my life, and it wasn’t until about 15 years ago that I realized that that party had left me. And the values that I see coming from the left, the Defund the police, and some of the things that are happening on college campuses. And the violence and the riots. I was early, and I’m proud of the fact that I was early about leaving that party, and there’s a tremendous walk away movement happening now because people are just, frankly fed up.
Richard: Yeah, I hear what you’re saying on that. On another issue yet, where do you stand on the issue of when does life begin?
Elliot Simon: I’ve come around to the view that life begins at conception.
Richard: Our nonprofit deals with teaching youth to stay abstinent before marriages. I have been involved with that many years. So a corollary question, and I know it’s not the primary role of government to teach sexual health, but, I believe in West Virginia and virtually every state they do teach so-called HIV AIDS prevention, which inevitably means you do have to talk about sexual health, which inevitably means there’s got to be some focus for it. So the short question is, would, or do you support teaching that school age youth should be abstinent before marriage, that that’s the preferred standard.
Elliott Simon: Well, mores in terms of how we live our live from a moral standpoint, really that needs to come from the home. Parents need to teach their kids the difference between right and wrong. If you’re going to teach biology, fine. There should be a certain moral component and an ethics component, and of course in schools, schools for kids, until a child reaches the age of consent, of course, schools should be promoting and recommending and teaching abstinence. Once a child grows up and becomes an adult, then they can make their own decisions.
Richard: What are some other points, or there are some other points of your platform, you know that we haven’t touched on, you’d like to emphasize; how you differentiate from Mr. Doyle and why the voters should vote for you?
Elliott Simon: Mr. Doyle, he’s kind of a maverick, even within his own party. John has said on many occasions that he aligns more with the Mountain Party then he does with the Democrat party. And that’s pretty far left. And yet at a forum that I appeared at with him, he said that he does not support the Green New Deal, but he supports the Mountain Party, which supports the Green New Deal. So I get really ____ sometimes. Recently, he was the only legislator to vote against not taxing Social Security benefits, so it passed, everybody in both houses voted for this legislation, and he didn’t. And his response was that he thinks that the state needs the money more than somebody on social security. Also with all of the riots thank goodness has on around the country, people’s safety and the safety of their homes and their property and their kids and all of that; West Virginia thank goodness has something called the Castle Doctrine. And the Castle Doctrine says that you are within your rights to use whatever force is necessary to defend yourself, your family and your home. And that passed in 2008 in the legislature. It passed 34 to nothing in the Senate and 97 to 1 in the House, of course, John Doyle was the one who voted against it. And he said, you have a duty to retreat and he cited British common law. Which, that’s for England. And here in the United States, we have a different ethos and a different way of looking at things. So, those are kind of radical things that I think people don’t realize, how really out there he is. I think that really what we need is some common sense here in the legislature, and I think I can provide that.