By Joe Beck
Del. Michael Webert, R-Marshall, won a second term Tuesday night with a decisive win over Democratic challenger Colin Harris in the 18th District.
With 19 of 30 precincts reporting, Webert had won 63 percent of the vote to 36 percent for Harris.
Webert, who operates a livestock farm of nearly 3,000 acres, campaigned as an ally of business and agriculture. He touted his role in forming a new caucus in the House of Delegates dedicated to promoting economic development.
Harris sought to tie Webert to what he called extremist elements in the Republican Party, especially in the U.S. House of Representatives.
On education policy, Webert said he favored more flexibility in allowing teachers to educate students inside and outside the classroom by "partnering" with local businesses.
He cited his co-sponsorship of a bill that would create high school-to-work partnerships as one example of his approach to education.
Webert called for a change in ethics rules governing gifts for state politicians. He said monetary contributions should be limited and reporting guidelines established for gifts received by family members "if politically related."
Harris and Webert sounded conciliatory notes toward each other Tuesday night after the results showed Webert with an insurmountable lead.
Webert said the main difference between the 2013 campaign and the 2011 campaign was that this year's opponent "was working hard, and he ran a pretty darn good campaign."
Harris, 22, said he was disappointed in the outcome but pleased that he and Webert ended the campaign with a measure of good will toward each other.
"He and I have grown to understand each other quite well during this campaign," Harris said.
"We got the issues out there, and we got people challenging their basic assumptions about these things, and it's an effort we can be incredibly proud of," Harris said.
Webert said business development and changes in the state's Standards of Leaning would be the focus of his second term.
"The big thing now is we have teachers who, given the fact they have to work toward these tests, are not given the leeway to be creative in their teaching of students," Webert said.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org