Today, the Daily Mail editorial board meets with Democrat Doug Skaff and Republicans Tom Takubo and Lance Wheeler.
Follow along as we live blog the meeting and learn more about the candidates
That wraps up our session for today.
Wheeler says banning Sudafed is the wrong direction. The people with the problem should be helped. “We need to look at programs that help users addicted to meth get back on their feet and working in society.”
Skaff says he agrees with Takubo. When people are paroled, all they know is drugs and crime. They need to be educated and receive treatment to ensure they contribute positively to society. “As government, we need to put those programs in place to help get people back on their feet.”
Takubo: If you have an ant problem and you’re spilling honey on the ground, the best solution is to stop spilling honey. People come from Detroit because of “the massive drug problem.” With the current problem, allowing practitioners to prescribe narcotics is not helpful. “Until something is done to stop the constant drug abuse problem in WV, it’s only going to get worse.”
Wheeler: “We need to make sure gun rights are upheld in WV.” Media doesn’t show how guns can help society. “I will protect guns no matter what and I will never vote for a bill that will infringe on a citizen’s right to bear arms.”
Wheeler says disarming citizens would not create a safer society. He’s pro-gun and has an A+ rating with the Citizens Defense League. “Every WV citizen has the right to own and carry a firearm not only to protect themselves but their families.”
Skaff says there’s only so much police protection that can be provided. In the past, Legislature has approved money for bullet-proof vests for all sheriff’s departments. That could be expanded to include local municipal departments.
Skaff says we need to do whatever it takes to keep people safe. His grandmother who lives on the West Side is afraid because of the violence. “They don’t care who they’re shooting at, what they’re shooting at and who is in the way.”
Philip Maramba asks about recent gun violence. What can be done in the Legislature to deal with the problem?
Skaff says a school’s curriculum should be determined by it’s location. As an example, schools in the northern part of the state should be focusing on educating students for jobs in drilling.
Skaff says it’s a chicken and egg problem–does the state attract the industry first or educate the work force? “We do a great job to a point of working with the two year colleges.” Notes partnership some CTCs have with Toyota that gives students hands-on experience while they’re in school. “We need more and more partnerships like that and flexibility in high school to get people excited about school again.”
Takubo: There’s a vast difference in kids that have a committed parent and those who don’t. Improving home lives should be a priority as well.
Takubo says the state should look at best practices from other states that have successful education systems. “Education has to start at home.” Many parents are disengaged from their child’s education. “Until we bring jobs in WV where people have the funds and aren’t working two or three jobs to support the family and get them motivated to participate with their kids at home, at lot of what’s done realistically will not make a difference.”
Takubo says what works for WV won’t necessarily work in other states. “WV medicine is very different than medicine around the country. Nobody knows WV medicine than the guys on the ground. It’s the same for education.” “Obviously what we’re doing is not working.”
Wheeler says Common Core “takes the last line of defense.” Would vote to repeal Common Core.
Wheeler says teachers are against Common Core. “I think that’s the wrong direction for education in WV.” Teachers should determine what’s best for their students. “We need to look at our students, their capabilities and what’s best for them.”
Merrit asks about the role of the Legislature in education. Wheeler notes top-down approach and local control.
Takubo: “An easy dollar today may have problems down the road when your child has overdosed and is gone.” Marijuana does not need to be on the radar. Skaff says state is years away to bill passing the Legislature.
Takubo says if you look at most patients in rehab with drug addiction problems, the vast majority would admit to smoking marijuana. “Our population is getting older, our drug problem is getting worse, not better.” He has patients who have used marijuana medically, and his office uses medication based off marijuana derivatives. Legalizing marijuana would lead kids down a wrong path.
Skaff says Colo. has seen drug busts decrease dramatically. Wheeler says the black market has to worry about prosecution. In a free market, dealers can charge less because of competition. “There are opportunities to tax it and increase revenues.” Colo. is expecting to see an increase in their budget.
Surber asks about taxing a product that already has a black market.
Skaff: “Can we export marijuana for medical use? It’s something we’ve looked at for the past year and will continue to look at.” Spoke with Colo. legislators who say the state has reaped millions in tax revenue from sell of the plant.
Skaff: When he began in the House, one person supported medical marijuana. Now, he’d put that number at 30-40. “I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do or not.” He would be open to looking at medical marijuana, but wouldn’t support full legalization of marijuana in WV. Wants to explore growing marijuana as a crop and selling it to states where it is legal.
Wheeler: “As a state senator, I don’t want to get in the middle of a decision between a patient and their doctor.” If the doctor thinks its the best course of action, the patient should have that opportunity. But he says he would like to see more extensive studies.
Wheeler says black markets exist when the government attempts to regulate. Three presidents have admitted to using marijuana as youngsters. “One thing I’m very worried about is incarcerating young 16 year olds, 18 year olds who are using this drug and putting them in prison.” Would like to see recovery programs and thinks local judges should consider the cases.
McElhinny asks about legalizing marijuana. Takubo says as a physician, he hasn’t seen enough long-term studies on the effects of marijuana. Trading one vice for another “is not a smart move.” “It’s shown time and time again its a gateway to illicit drug use. I would never be for legalizing marijuana.”
Takubo says everything is a moving target. “Everything is fluid. You have to constantly reassess the markets. What you don’t want to do is pull jobs or industry away from West Virginia when you’re looking to find more.”
Wheeler would support repealing the rule. “I do believe they should exist. They’re a good revenue source. From there, hopefully we could look at other areas.”
Wheeler says the law is an example of the government getting involved in the free market. Casinos should be allowed to make their own decisions. “I don’t support laws that tell businesses how they can or cannot do their business.”
Skaff: “I don’t think we need to do away with the dog and horse industry. It’s a good industry that creates jobs. We need to figure out a way to improve it.”
Skaff says law was passed to create tourism destinations. “I don’t think our answer is to change that. We have a great industry when it comes to horses and dogs.” Notes competition in surrounding states hurting WV’s casinos.
Brad McElhinny asks about gambling, which continues to be a source of revenue for the state. He wants to know if table games should be tied to racetracks.
Skaff: “Even if you found $1 billion this year, you’d have to find $1 billion next year.”
Skaff says there’s not enough to cut to fix the crisis. “There is only so much you can cut before you hurt the people of West Virginia.” As the population declines, so does taxpayer revenue. Skaff signed the tax pledge, so he does not support increasing taxes. He wants to explore partnerships with industry to fund fixes.
Wheeler says an increase in the gas tax will trickle down to grocery stores and hurt other industries and markets. “Rome was not built in a day, but as state senator I will work efficiently to fund the roads and get West Virginia on a safe and smooth ride.”
Wheeler says many departments and agencies should be reviewed or sunset. “The majority of programs we see today that are still active are not doing what they’re supposed to be. … We need to cut the fat, find out where the waste is coming from.”
Wheeler says the last thing the state should do is increase the gas tax or tolls. “Our roads are in bad shape.” Recently had to replace shocks in his truck because of the pothole problem. “There is a lot of waste we don’t know of going on in Charleston.”
Takubo: “You need to cut the fat.” Getting rid of expected wage could cut cost by 30% or $500 million, according to analysts. “We can’t afford waste anymore.” All potential cost savings measures should be explored. “There is only so much revenue the state can generate.”
Don Surber says West Virginia has experienced a terrible winter, turns the topic to the road fund. How do you get $1 billion to pay for the roads?
Wheeler says Takubo danced around the question. He wouldn’t say he wouldn’t increase taxes. “That’s not the type of leadership West Virginia needs.” Wheeler says it’s necessary to tell voters you won’t increase their taxes. He urges Takubo to reconsider signing the pledge.
Takubo says coal is declining. “Obama’s killed us.” He was able to go to med school because his father was a coal miner.
Takubo says he has not signed the tax pledge. “The best decision is the most informed decision.” He says he won’t “handcuff” himself and will keep options on the table. But he can’t foresee raising taxes as a viable option given the spending and waste in Charleston.
Takubo says he didn’t know how to start a business or run a medical practice, but he learned quickly through research and talking with colleagues. He now employs about 50 “highly skilled individuals.” Other critical care centers are using his practice as an example.
Wheeler says people are overtaxed, so he pledges to never increase taxes or increase the budget. “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.”
Wheeler says constituents are concerned about jobs. Politicians forget about spending, so the Legislature needs to look into wasteful spending. “You can’t tell me there’s not one dime of wasted government in Charleston.” Wants to lower taxes and reduce spending. “We need to get West Virginia back on track.”
Skaff: “That was the one major job creating bill the Legislature passed.” He says he’ll work with the Commerce Dept and governor’s office over the summer and will reintroduce the bill next session if he’s elected. “I think we need to get one example of this does work and everyone will start believing in it.”
Skaff: “I lost sleep over it.” He says he spoke with the governor’s office and tried to figure out how to prevent the governor from vetoing. “For whatever reason the Commerce Department couldn’t get their heads around it.” Uses Washington’s Google Campus and Pittsburgh’s Homestead area as examples of the type of development that could have occurred under Project Launchpad.
Kelly Merrit asks Skaff about Project Launchpad. He wants to know Skaff’s reaction and future plans.
Skaff is the author of the Project Launchpad bill, which passed the Legislature but was vetoed by the governor. He says that’s one example of how he’s worked to keep college graduates in the state and start their own businesses.
Skaff said once he was interested in running for office, he had to choose between his job and his political aspirations. He decided to run for office, so he started a small business with his dad. He’s in his sixth year in the House of Delegates. He wants to move to the Senate to work to create opportunities by changing the tax structure, creating jobs and educating the work force.
Skaff says he worked out of state for a bit, but wanted to return to the state as soon as possible. “I wanted to stay in WV, I wanted to raise my family here and I wanted to live in Charleston.” But his only job opportunity was out of state.
Doug Skaff is the lone Democrat in the race. He says regardless of party, people who put their names on the ballot want to make a difference.
Wheeler is an entrepreneur who is starting his own business. He says there are too many doctors and lawyers in the Legislature and not enough young people. His top priority is increasing the number of jobs. Signed a pledge that says as Senator, he would never vote to increase taxes. “I will not play party politics. I will not toe the party line because I’m trying to win favors. I will vote my conscious. I will vote my principles.”
Lance Wheeler is from St. Albans. He says at a young age, he became concerned with the direction of the state and country. “I’ve been Republican my whole life but it wasn’t until I received my first paycheck I became a conservative.”
Takubo says there needs to be a leader representing the medical community in the Legislature. He would work with physicians statewide and use their expertise to reach a decision good for the state.
Tom Takubo is a South Charleston doctor who says he’s always had an interest in serving. He’s of the opinion every young person should give back if possible. His concerns include medical issues. “It’s complex.” “I don’t think Obamacare is right for the state of West Virginia.” Says long-term consequences could be bad for WV.
We’re about to get started with our three candidates.
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