The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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November 4, 2012

Candidates agree to a ‘kinder, gentler’ W.Va. Senate race

— In an era of political nastiness, with office-seekers often behaving badly, the 9th District race for the West Virginia Senate has been devoid of anything negative.

No mudslinging. No distorted ads. No brickbats hurled with abandon.

By mutual agreement, both Delegate Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, and his Republican opponent, political newcomer Epp Cline, stayed on the high road, sticking to issues rather than engaging in harsh rhetoric.

“It is probably rare anywhere,” said Cline, a retired Wyoming County educator and volunteer for the anti-drug, faith-based group known as One Voice.

Back in the Democratic primary, things were hardly congenial when Hall upset veteran legislator Richard Browning, also D-Wyoming, when the tone of that campaign produced a lot of fireworks.

In keeping with his genteel demeanor, Cline laughingly referred to it as “a conflict.”

“The general public felt they didn’t like some of the things that were going on back and forth,” Cline recalled.

“We chose to keep it cleaner.”

Hall isn’t sure just when the two decided to set a kinder, gentler approach.

“But as time went on, and discussions happened between us, it came up a few times, that we’d like to keep it on a positive note,” the two-term House member recalled.

Late this week, Hall chatted again with his opponent and renewed

a pledge to focus

exclusively on issues, not personalities, and to refrain from personal attacks. He posted the pact on Facebook, and a number of people applauded both men in responses.

“We were not going to allow that petty stuff to get in the way of the important issues and running a clean campaign between us,” Hall said.

“People have said stuff about me and people said stuff about him, people that are affiliated with our campaigns. We tried to keep that squashed and keep it on issues out there. We just reaffirmed that yesterday before things get out of hand in the last few days.”

There have been only a few notes of discord — zealots on both sides vandalizing each other’s yard signs.

“Things that are obviously not weather, when there’s a footprint right through it,” Hall said, laughing at his observation.

Hall didn’t know his opponent before the latter filed to run, but the relationship between the two campaigns go back a few years.

In his school days at Liberty High, the Republican candidate’s campaign manager, Todd Kirby, was an outside linebacker, while Hall served as offensive coordinator.

Besides that, Kirby’s brother and Hall were friends in their formative years.

“We were all hard-core conservative Republicans and Dan kind of pushed on us,” Kirby said.

While political differences have emerged, however, since his school days, Kirby still views Hall as a friend and agrees that this campaign has been out of the ordinary.

“It has been refreshing not doing any negative advertising and letting the voters decide what is best,” he said.

While the relationship might be cordial, it’s still a political campaign with a winner-takes-all outcome Tuesday.

Until his retirement, Cline was a history teacher, first at Baileysville High, later at the consolidated Westside.

“Over the years, I taught a lot of students,” the 64-year-old said.

“I have seen many of my former students move out of state, because of the job situation in West Virginia. Jobs is one of my priorities. We don’t have enough for the people.”

Cline, likewise, has been gratified to see the campaign on the high road, absent the bombardment of negative ads.

“People get tired of that, all the time on television, taking things out of context and making a commercial out of it,” he added.

A claims adjuster for Nationwide Insurance, Hall had his hands full this week in the aftermath of the massive snowstorm that pounded this region, but managed to get in a chat with his opponent as the campaign neared the finish line.

“I like to think we are friends,” he said.

“We’re not best friends. He’s got his own circle of friends and so do I, but I would like to think we are friends.”

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