Ashton Marra

Assistant News Director, Statehouse Reporter

Ashton Marra is the Assistant News Director at West Virginia Public Broadcasting, coordinating the coverage of her fellow reporters under News Director Beth Vorhees, and serves as the producer for the morning news magazine West Virginia Morning. She also serves as the fill in host of the program.

Ashton covers the Capitol for West Virginia Public Broadcasting and can be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning with the latest statehouse news, from politics to policy and everything in between. You can keep up with her work on social media through Twitter and tumblr.

During the legislative session, Ashton focuses on the state Senate, bringing daily reports from the inner-workings of the state’s upper house on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s nightly television show The Legislature Today.  She also hosts that show, interviewing lawmakers, lobbyists and leading a roundtable discussion focused on the top stories of the week with her colleagues from the Capitol press corps.

Ashton served as the producer and host of Viewpoint, West Virginia Public Broadcasting's 10-week political talk show in the fall of 2014. The weekly hour-long program included in-depth interviews with candidates, analysis and a reporter roundtable leading up to the 2014 general election. 

Ashton has most recently received national attention for her coverage of the January 9, 2014, chemical spill in Charleston. Her work was featured on NPR's hourly newscasts, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, WBUR's Here & Now, KCRW's To The Point, the PBS NewsHour and Al Jazeera America.

Ashton came to WVPBS in October of 2012 from ABC News’ morning program Good Morning America where she worked as a production associate. Ashton produced pieces for the broadcast, including the first identified victim of the Aurora, CO, movie theater shooting and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, as well as multiple entertainment news stories.

Before her time at GMA, Ashton worked as an intern on ABC’s news assignment desk, helping to organize coverage of major news stories like the Trayvon Martin case, the Jerry Sandusky trial and the 2012 Presidential election. She also spent 18 months as a weekend reporter for WDTV based in her hometown of Clarksburg, WV, breaking the story of missing Lewis County toddler Aliayah Lunsford. Ashton’s work from that story was featured on HLN’s Nancy Grace in October of 2011.

Ashton graduated summa cum laude from West Virginia University in May of 2012, where she was named WVU’s Reporter of the Year. She covered government for the P.I. Reed School of Journalism’s bi-weekly newscast WVU News and also served a semester as the WVPBS bureau reporter.

When she isn’t reporting, Ashton enjoys cooking and is an avid supporter of the arts, including theater, music and dance. She is a huge fan of musicals and touts her collection of Playbills from the Broadway shows she’s attended, which grew by nearly 30 in her 9 months living in New York City.
 

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Republican Majority
11:35 am
Fri November 7, 2014

Hall Says Political Flip to Keep District Relevant

Credit Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Wyoming County Senator Daniel Hall made the political switch from Democrat to Republican this week giving the GOP an 18 to 16 majority. On Viewpoint Friday, Hall said he made the switch to keep his district relevant.

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Viewpoint
11:01 am
Fri November 7, 2014

Historic Wins and a Party Switch Mean New Faces Will Lead W.Va. in Washington and at Home

The 2014 mid-term elections were significant not just for the national Republican Party, but for the state GOP as well. The party was able to gain control of all 4 Congressional seats on the ballot and flip both the West Virginia House and Senate. 

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Economy
3:13 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

Governor's Trip to Brazil to Focus on Ethane Cracker Plant

Credit West Virginia Legislature

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin announced Thursday he will lead a trade mission to Brazil next week to continue talks with two companies who plan to bring an ethane cracker to the state. 

Tomblin and members of the West Virginia Development Office will meet with executives from Odebrecht and Braskem while on the four day trip to the South American country, focusing on the next steps for Project ASCENT.

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Higher Education
3:08 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

WVU Exploring Purchase of Beckley Campus

Credit Swimmerguy269 / wikimedia Commons

West Virginia University announced Thursday it is exploring the purchase of the former Mountain State University Beckley campus.The University announced a due diligence agreement in a press release. The agreement allows WVU to explore the facilities, location, and academic programs among many other areas at Mountain State to determine if it meets their academic and fiscal expectations.

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Politics
7:33 pm
Wed November 5, 2014

Hall Switches Parties, GOP Will Control Both Chambers of West Virginia Legislature

Credit West Virginia Legislature

Senator Daniel Hall has left the Democratic Party, flipping the West Virginia Legislature entirely into the hands of the GOP, according to a source in the state's Republican Party office. 

The party affiliation change comes after a deadlock in the state Senate where Republicans and Democrats each had 17 members as a result of Tuesday's election.

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Senate Power
3:51 pm
Wed November 5, 2014

After Tuesday's Election West Virginia's State Senate Was Tied. Now, It's Not.

Credit Martin Valent / WV Legislative Photography

Updated Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 7:45 p.m. 

State Senator Daniel Hall has switched from Democrat to Republican, switching the balance of power.  For more, see this story.

Original Post from Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 3: 51 p.m. 

After Tuesday’s mid-term elections, Democrats in the West Virginia Senate are living with a new reality.  There are 17 of them and 17 Republicans, leaving the upper chamber in a dead even tie.

The results mean control of the Senate, and Senate President Jeff Kessler’s position of power, hang in the balance, but it’s not one that’s likely to be decided any time soon.

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Election 2014
2:17 pm
Wed November 5, 2014

Five Ways the West Virginia GOP Made History in the 2014 Election

Credit West Virginia Public Broadcasting / Google Fusion Tables

The story of the 2014 Midterm Elections in West Virginia is all about the Republican Party.

Calling Tuesday's election a statement that the President's polices were on the ballot, Republicans won big in federal races and dramatically shifted the power of the state legislature.

Here are the five biggest stories of the night:

1. The House of Delegates is now in the hands of the GOP for the first time in 83 years.

The state Republican Party's main focus this year was changing the balance of power in the House of Delegates. Running on a campaign of "83 years is enough" and pointing to the longtime control of Democrats, the GOP pulled 64 of 100 seats in the state legislature's lower house. 

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Election 2014
2:04 am
Wed November 5, 2014

McKinley Wins Big in Re-Election Bid

Congressman David McKinley gives his victory speech in front of supporters in Morgantown.
Credit Glynis Board / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Congressman David McKinley's re-election Tuesday evening came as no surprise to most who have been following the 1st Congressional District race. His opponent, Democratic state Auditor Glen Gainer, was often criticized for running a quiet race, one he called "truly grassroots."

By the end of the night, results showed McKinley winning with 64 percent of the vote, but he spoke to supporters in Morgantown shortly after the polls closed.

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Election 2014
12:52 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Capito Wins U.S. Senate, Helps Tip Federal Balance to GOP

Senator-elect Shelley Moore Capito gave her victory speech at the Embassy Suites in Charleston.
Credit Roxy Todd / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A mere seconds after the polls closed across the state, national media outlets began calling the U.S. Senate race in favor of Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito.

The seat is being vacated by long-time Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller who announced his retirement last year.

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Election 2014
12:38 pm
Mon November 3, 2014

Early Vote Totals in W.Va. Down By Nearly 11,000

Credit wikimedia / Wikimedia

The West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office is reporting early voting numbers this year are down compared to the last mid-term election cycle in 2010. 

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Election 2014
11:21 am
Fri October 31, 2014

Vote Smart's Vote Easy is the 'Match.com' of Politics

Credit Project Vote Smart

With all of the negative campaign advertising on television and radio leading up to Election Day, voters can get lost in the noise.

Project Vote Smart is helping to cut through that though with a free online resource for voters called Vote Easy. It’s a quiz of sorts to help you figure out which candidate most closely aligns with your stances on certain issues.

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Viewpoint
10:40 am
Fri October 31, 2014

McKinley Talks Policy Over Politics, Are the Races Over? Manchin Says Not All

Congressman David McKinley's race for re-election has seen little noise from his Democratic challenger state Auditor Glen Gainer. In an earlier episode of Viewpoint, Gainer called his campaign a truly "grassroots effort," but McKinley doesn't seem threatened by the challenge.

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Economic Diversification
1:12 am
Thu October 30, 2014

What the Beckley Area Thinks of Southern W.Va.'s Economic Future

Eight members of the SCORE committee listen at their first listening tour stop in Beckley.
Ashton Marra West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A special West Virginia Senate committee, known as the Southern Coalfields Revitalizing its Economy or SCORE for short, made its first stop in Beckley Wednesday evening to hear from community members ways lawmakers can help diversify the region's economy and put people back to work. 

More than two dozen people shared their thoughts with the eight panel members in attendance. Here is what some had to say.

Infrastructure:

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Election 2014
3:38 pm
Tue October 28, 2014

How Should You Vote on Amendment One?

The Summit Bechtel Reserve in Fayette County.
Credit wikimedia commons

When you go to the polls on Election Day, or maybe before if you’re looking to vote early, there will be more than just candidates listed on your ballot. You’ll also be asked to decide whether or not West Virginia’s Constitution needs a change, but that question is not quite so clear. 

Amendment One is titled the “Nonprofit Youth Organization Tax Exemption Support Amendment” and in case you don’t think that is self explanatory, here’s what it means.

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Election 2014
12:48 pm
Mon October 27, 2014

Where Do I Vote? Pew Can Point You in the Right Direction

Credit WBOY

Over the past few months, you’ve no doubt been battered by an onslaught of campaign advertisements from the candidates themselves and from outside organizations trying to sway your opinion.

Now that early voting has started in West Virginia, campaigns are ramping up their outreach to voters, but even after you make your decisions, do you know where to go to voice those opinions? Sometimes finding your polling place can be harder than you think.

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Viewpoint
10:18 am
Fri October 24, 2014

Rahall Says Ugly Ads Will Hurt Turnout; What is Amendment One?

  Congressman Nick Rahall's race against state Sen. Evan Jenkins has been focused on the declining coal industry in southern West Virginia.

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Public Education
10:00 pm
Thu October 23, 2014

W.Va. Education Committee Exploring Realignment of Regional Education

Credit West Virginia Department of Education

For the past 20 months, the West Virginia Board of Education’s Commission on School District Governance and Administration has been discussing ways the state can restructure at the regional level to provide better service to the local school districts. At a meeting Thursday, members finalized their recommendations for the full board who will vote on them in November.

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West Virginia Morning
8:15 am
Thu October 23, 2014

Lawmakers Told WVOASIS Has More Problems, Group Prepares for Queer Film Festival

The director of WVOASIS, West Virginia's new integrated software platform, told lawmakers the fourth phase of the system will be delayed by at least three months after testing did not meet the required milestones. The opening of an expeditionary learning school in Huntington will also be delayed as crews work to renovate an old middle school into a facility equiped for a new style of learning.

The Appalachian Queer Film Festival begins this weekend in Lewisburg and it's director says it's okay to use that word.  

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State Government
7:22 am
Thu October 23, 2014

Official: WVOASIS Not Ready for Next Phase

WVOASIS Director Rick Pickens spoke to members of the Joint Committee on Government Organization on the House floor.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Lawmakers were updated Wednesday on the roll out process of the state's new software system designed to integrate almost every function in government. 

The first phase of WVOASIS, or 'Our Advanced Solution with Integrated Systems, was implemented in August of 2013. It's latest phase took effect July of this year, but wasn't necessarily the smooth transition many state officials had hoped for.

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Public Services
6:03 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Public Utilities Say Too Much Regulation From State

Delegates listen as Paul Calamita, counsel for the West Virginia Municipal Water Quality Association, addresses regulatory concerns.
Credit Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Services

A study paid for by local public water systems says the state public service commission over-regulates the utilities and is preventing them from providing better service to their customers.

The study was paid for by the West Virginia Rural Water Association, Municipal Water Quality Association, the West Virginia section of American Water Works Association and the West Virginia Water Environment Association.

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