They went to rival high schools. They come from prominent Wheeling families. They’ve been successful in their chosen professional careers. And they both want to be your next state senator.
On Wednesday, Republican state Sen. Ryan Ferns and his Democrat challenger, William Ihlenfeld, will meet at West Virginia Northern Community College’s B&O Building, 1704 Market St., Wheeling, for a debate sponsored by The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register.
The event is set for 6:30-8 p.m. The public is invited to attend.
The debate will feature a series of questions to the candidates ranging from how each believes state government should operate to the needs in the First Senatorial District, which stretches from Hancock to Ohio counties. The upcoming Interstate 70 rehabilitation project, and how the state Department of Transportation plans to handle it now that it’s been put back out for another round of bids, also will be a highlight.
“There are so many important things happening in our region, and we are pleased to bring you this event between Ryan Ferns and Bill Ihlenfeld, where we will encourage meaningful dialogue between the candidates on issues facing the First Senatorial District,” said John McCabe, managing editor of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register. “It’s time for the campaign rhetoric to be put aside and for the candidates to answer questions important to our area. We believe this event will help area residents in deciding a winner on Nov. 6.”
The race has generated strong interest across West Virginia, as Ihlenfeld has strong support from the teachers, attorneys and labor while Ferns has strong support from the business and medical communities.
In the latest campaign finance filing at the end of September, Ferns had raised $203,373 to Ihlenfeld’s $152,479. At that time, Ferns had a balance in his campaign of $135,708 to Ihlenfeld’s $96,679.
Ferns, 35, has been in state politics since 2010 when he was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates as a Democrat. He switched parties in 2013, and was elected as a Republican in 2014 to the state Senate. He currently is ending his first term in the Senate and serves as Senate majority leader.
Ferns is a graduate of Wheeling Central Catholic High School and Wheeling Jesuit University, where he earned his doctorate in Physical Therapy.
Ihlenfeld, 46, served as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia from 2010-16 and as an assistant prosecutor in Ohio and Brooke counties from 1997-2010. During his time as U.S. Attorney, Ihlenfeld formed a public corruption task force for the district, with his efforts yielding multiple convictions and jail time in a West Virginia Division of Highways bid-rigging and criminal racketeering enterprise.