By Mannix Porterfield
While he looms as a self-described long shot, veteran television newsman Martin Staunton is off and running for the U.S. Senate, hoping to fill the seat vacated next year by Jay Rockefeller.
Staunton, running without any political affiliation, has become only the second candidate so far to pay a filing fee and put his hat in the ring.
The other candidate to file is Scott “Cody” Regan, a Republican living in the Cabell County town of Salt Rock.
Rockefeller, who served two terms as West Virginia’s governor before his election to the Senate in 1984, has announced his intentions to retire at the end of 2014.
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., a seven-term member of the House in the state’s 2nd District, got into the Senate race early, announcing her plans before Rockefeller indicated he would step down.
“I am not a politician,” Staunton said Friday. “I am going to be a statesman. And while there are things about both parties I like, I will not toe any party line. It is about the people, not the political party.”
Staunton moved to Oak Hill at age 13 from his native Niagara, N.Y., and launched a career in acting after attending West Virginia University, but returned to his adopted state and completed his college studies.
For decades, he was a reporter/news anchor at television stations in Beckley and Charleston, building a large following that has carried over to the social medium Facebook. His posts always trigger instant and vast responses.
Staunton plans to conduct a news conference about his candidacy Wednesday at the state Capitol.
Asked about issues that concern him, Staunton mentioned one that is of a personal nature — health care.
A few months ago, his wife died, and Staunton himself never succumbed to complications attributed to diabetes.
“The issue that changed my life is health care,” he told The Register-Herald.
“In eight months, I nearly died, was released from my (television) contract, and then prevented from working in my profession for a year, and then my wife of 25 years died an uninsured American.”
Staunton said health care costs are “a big part of my platform as I have had to navigate the system as a person with insurance and without.”
“And I’m telling you, it is a nightmare,” he said.
“Help is needed and the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act needs some fixing. Jobs are another part of the platform I am putting together.”
Staunton remains unemployed, but added, “I know I can do this job and do great things for the people of West Virginia.
“My goal is to bring the voice of the common people back into Congress with the salt of the earth common sense that seems to be sorely missing in Washington,” the Beckley resident said.
As for his chances, Staunton added, “I know I am a long shot, but I really think I can win and I know I can do a better job than Shelley.”
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