Sam Petsonk

Candidate for WV Attorney General

Morgantown/Kingwood Branch of the NAACP 2020 Questionnaire

A. How do you plan to improve access to health care and public health information for minority communities in West Virginia? 

Healthcare is the central focus of my campaign. As Attorney General, I will remove West Virginia from the lawsuit to repeal our federal healthcare laws. If the lawsuit is successful, at least 162,000 West Virginians will lose coverage under Medicaid expansion. Hundreds of thousands more could lose their insurance because they have “pre-existing conditions” like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, pregnancy, COPD or cancer. Every person deserves access to healthcare, regardless of race, gender, or a pre-existing condition.

B. In what ways should police departments and bystanding police officers be held accountable for their officers’ violent acts and misconduct?

In Jones v. City of Martinsburg, the Fourth Circuit recently clarified that newly rigorous expectations are now in place for civil (and possibly criminal) liability when lives are damaged or lost at the hands of police and police bystanders. The evolving law of qualified immunity will provide increasingly stringent accountability frameworks. As Attorney General, I would do what I’ve always done: heed the needs and concerns of both law enforcement and communities of color. We must protect both the public and the State by doing better at officer training and allocating resources toward mental health providers in first response.

C. In what ways have you fought discrimination that targeted people of color either in the workplace or in the community?

As a lawyer focusing on civil rights and employment discrimination, I have a successful record of using our laws to ensure workers receive fair payments and benefits. The State Human Rights Commission and the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division have become a shadow of what they should be during my opponent’s time in office. They’ve all but died on the vine. I’ve worked with localities across the state to create local enforcement mechanisms for the Human Rights Act. As Attorney General, I will revive the Civil Rights Division and Human Rights Commission to prevent and remedy discrimination, and empower marginalized voices statewide by strengthening local human rights enforcement.  

D. What actions will you take against voter suppression?

Voting is a fundamental part of our democracy, and a fundamental right. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of West Virginians have been purged from the voter rolls in recent years, raising concerns of voter suppression. As Attorney General, I will direct the agencies of the state to enact measures that make it easier for everyone to vote, including working with the Secretary of State to implement automatic voting by mail across the state. I will also use the Civil Rights Division to address voter suppression and ensure that every person who wants to cast their ballot can do so.