Cooper getting busy

By John O'Brien | May 2, 2006

CHARLESTON - Thornton Cooper might not get to enjoy much of his summer.

He may be balancing his campaign for state Senate and Charleston user fee litigation, pending the outcome of a pair of votes.

Cooper will face incumbent Sen. Brooks McCabe in the Democratic primary for the 17th Senate District May 9, and his next step in challenging the user fee will be determined July 24 by a special vote.

A former attorney for the Public Service Commission, Cooper admittedly has his hands full in the next couple months, and asked for an extension on the filing of an appeal regarding the user fee until after the referendum on the $1-per-week levy that goes toward maintaining road conditions and paying new police officers in Charleston.

"I want to find the outcome of the vote," Cooper said. "If it's voted up, there will be no question of a refund. If it's voted down, then there will be an issue of a refund."

Cooper filed a lawsuit in Kanawha Circuit Court two years ago when the Charleston City Council passed the ordinance. Circuit Judge James Stucky ruled against Cooper, who appealed to the decision to the state Supreme Court.

Stucky's decision was upheld in Supreme Court, but it was also determined that city officials failed to properly notify Charleston residents of the passing of the ordinance and ordered the special referendum.

That referendum could have been May 9 during the primary election, but Cooper insisted that the full text of the user fee law be available in the booth, pushing the date back.

If citizens vote against the user fee now, Cooper said, there will be an issue of two years taxes being refunded.

"We've been working to getting an extension of time until the election is over," Cooper said. "It's a regressive taxing fee, and it's taxation without representation. Most of the people who work in Charleston don't live in Charleston."

And if there is an issue of a refund, it will only complicate his summer.

Should Cooper prevail against McCabe, he would face Republican Ann Calvert, a former member of the House of Delegates.

McCabe, a noted real estate developer, is seeking election to his third term, and it looks like Cooper will have an uphill battle to keep that from happening

According to pre-primary reports filed by both candidates with the Secretary of State's office, Cooper has raised a little less than $12,000 for his campaign while McCabe has raised nearly $140,000.

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