Democrat incumbent Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Republican challenger Bill Maloney meet with the Daily Mail editorial board at 10 a.m. today. They first faced each other in 2011′s special election for a one-year term. This year’s election is for a full, four-year term. Join us as we ask them some questions:
And with that, I’m heading over to work on the full stories on this meeting. Have a good day. – Ry
Several people have asked where Mountain Party candidate Jesse Johnson was. He was not invited to today’s editorial board meeting. The reason, which one editor touched on at the beginning of the session, was so editors could focus on the differences between the two leading candidates in the race.
(The West Virginia Broadcasters Association gave a similar reason for excluding Johnson from its Oct. 9 gubernatorial debate, the only one which will be on statewide TV. Johnson harshly criticized the broadcasters’ decision and, while I haven’t talked to him today, the Mountain Party did voice concern that Johnson was not at today’s event.)
I’m looking to interview Johnson in coming days.
Likewise, Bob Henry Baber, the Mountain Party candidate for U.S. Senate, was not at Monday’s editorial board meeting with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Republican challenger John Raese. We will also try to interview Baber in coming days.
The Mountain Party generally performs in the mid-single digits, meaning they are quite unlikely to win either race. However, depending on where those votes come from and how close the Republican-Democrat races are, the votes for the Mountain Party could cause one side to lose and the other to win (aka, the Ralph Nader Effect).
Republicans are optimistic that Democrats will rebel against Tomblin who, as we’ve seen, refuses to support President Barack Obama, the party’s standard-bearer. Democrats, for their part, hope voters will be less likely to swing to Johnson’s camp if the race is close and their votes could cost the Democrats the election. We shall see.
Johnson, in repeated phone calls over the years, has pointed out there’s something of a chicken-and-the-egg thing when it comes to press coverage: He doesn’t get as much coverage as the Republican and Democrat candidates because he’s not doing well but he’s also not doing well because he doesn’t get covered. For his part, Johnson and the Mountain Party argue that the Republicans and Democrats in West Virginia are basically identical parties beholden to the extraction industries, aka the coal operators.
The meeting ended around 11:15 a.m.
A full report will be posted at charlestondailymail.com later in the day or late this evening.
(The exchange over the ads was, at the end, somewhat light-hearted, though we’ll see…)
Asked about ads Tomblin and the Democratic Governors Association are airing that portray Maloney as an out-of-stater, Tomblin said he is proud of being born in the coalfields. Maloney notes that Tomblin’s ads forgot to mention Maloney’s family moved to Ohio when he was in second grade. “We’ll go back…,” Tomblin replies.
In talk about making sure the state’s budget is shored up, Tomblin, who is working on budget cuts for next year, asks Maloney, “I would just be curious what program you would be cutting from state government?” (Tomblin’s administration has suggested a few specific cuts it may make.)
Maloney said he has a plan for the state and slides Tomblin a two-page brochure. Tomblin, who has each hand wrested on the opposite wrist, doesn’t move to touch it
“I’m not the one running things right now, you are,” Maloney tells him.
“What we’re doing is running responsible government,” Tomblin said.
Maloney said he had a conversation with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett where Corbett said a tort reform issue was a reason why Shell picked the state as the potential site for a large petrochemical facility.
Tomblin says tort reform didn’t come up. “That was never a part of their concerns in West Virginia, tort reform,” he said.
Tomblin says he would sign a tort reform bill if it came to him but that he doesn’t plan to introduce one.
“You don’t wait on the Legislature to do things, the governor is a leader,” Maloney replied.
Maloney and Tomblin sparred briefly over whether this alternative energy plan (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/statenews/201107051014) is akin to a federal “cap and trade” bill. Maloney contends that because it requires a certain portion of power generation to be from something besides coal it’s anti-coal. Tomblin said the bill — which was passed with the support of the Coal Association — is not akin to “cap and trade.” As of last summer, about 30 states have adopted laws designed to change the mix of fuel sources companies use to generate power. But West Virginia is one of a handful of states that also allow “alternative” energy to count as part of the portfolio. “Alternative” energy includes power produced by natural gas, “clean coal,” “tire-derived fuel” and “waste coal.”
The first difference is over the tax on business property, which industry has long contended makes the state unattractive to some new businesses. But the tax is also a key source of funding for local school systems. If the tax is cut, the money will have to come from the state.
“The inventory tax is something we need to get rid of,” Maloney said. He wants a constitutional convention to get rid of it because the tax is a constitutional provision.
Tomblin, noting that the tax goes to fund schools, said, “We’ve got to realize that you cannot just eliminate an inventory tax in a vacuum.”
Tomblin points to a long career in the Legislature that began when he was still in college. “I think I’ve proven in my tenure, I’ve been able to bring all sides together,” he said, citing new gas regulations and bipartisan support for a recent multi-part plan to deal with $10 billion in benefits owed to retired public workers.
“We’ve got a lot of room to go. We’ve still got people struggling,” he said. But he notes the state’s unemployment rate is still below the national average.
“We just need to take on the issues that face us,” Maloney says, in opening remarks. He said we need to courts, tax code and education system and deal with “corruption issues.” Also, he wants to focus on on tourism and getting people outdoors more.
As you can (I hope) see above, there will be live video of this event, too.
Sometimes candidates “makes news,” as we say, during these meetings. A few of you may recall a revealing moment during last year’s meeting. Unions had opposed Tomblin during the Democratic primary but then backed him up in the fall. (http://charlestondailymail.com/News/election12/201109061227). “I guess they just had a vision,” Tomblin said of the unions, waving his hand over his face. But during the same meeting, he also opened the door to signing a “right-to-work” law. Shortly thereafter, Tomblin wrote a letter to unions making clear he was on their side (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/2011091102390).
If you don’t know what an editorial board meeting is about, here’s a quick primer on three things that makes them interesting:
First, a paper’s editors like to hear from the candidates before the editors make endorsements. Because of that, the editors ask many of the questions.
Second, the candidates are rarely together in a room, so these meetings are a unique opportunity to see how they deal with each other. Often, their cordial attitude while in a room will differ drastically from their sharp on-air attacks.
Third, it’s a good way to hear from the candidates themselves, who are often walled off from direct dialogue with the press by flacks. So, the reporter in the room will write a story (or two or three) about what’s said.
This is Ry Rivard, one of the political reporters here at the Daily Mail. I’ll be covering the editorial board meeting, which starts in just 39 minutes.
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