The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 27, 2010

Candidates spar over issues

2010 Congressional Debate

By Taylor Kuykendall
Register-Herald Reporter

— In the final days of the race toward the Third Congressional District seat, both candidates say they are feeling confident about a win on Nov. 2.

At the second and final debate held Tuesday at Carter Hall on the campus of Mountain State University, the incumbent Democrat Nick Rahall said he feels very confident of a win against Republican opponent Elliott “Spike” Maynard.

“I’m not overconfident, I take every election seriously and I am going to continue to work until the final polls shut down and then go back to work the next day as well,” Rahall said after the event.

Maynard, however, said that a loud and cheering crowd was indicative of a constituency that is seeking a change in the Third Congressional District.

“I honestly feel like we have the momentum, I do. Tonight reinforces that, I don’t know if you heard, but the voter intensity among our people is very deep,” Maynard said. “They are very supportive and they are hard fighters. I think they are going to carry us through and we are going to win this election on Nov. 2.”

Rahall said he thought the debate did well to highlight the differences between the two candidates and reinforced the messages of both candidates.

“I don’t think that there were any new points brought up in the debate that hasn’t already been expressed during the course of this campaign,” Rahall said. “The people of West Virginia came out as the clear winners in this debate by getting the chance to hear both candidates answer questions that I’m sure was on their mind.”

Maynard said he also was pleased to have a chance to discuss the “deep differences” between the two during the debate.

“I thought it was very lively and very spirited and maybe it’s fair to say that even the gloves came off a little bit tonight,” Maynard said.

The debate was sponsored by The Register-Herald, Bluefield Daily Telegraph and WVVA-TV. Register-Herald General Manager and Executive Editor Carl “Butch” Antolini and WVVA-TV Content Manager Greg Carter moderated the event and asked candidates to respond to questions that included health care, government spending, infrastructure, national debt, foreign policy, education and the future of the state.

Maynard, a Williamson-native and former state Supreme Court chief justice, opened the debate.

“There are clear differences in the candidates for this election and the voters deserve to know those differences,” Maynard said. “The first is the government takeover of our health care system -- we call it Obamacare.”

Maynard’s opening statements primarily focused on “Obamacare,” claiming that the health care bill passed by the congress funded abortions, care for illegal immigrants and was generally too expensive. He said he would repeal Obamacare and replace it with “other medical care for everyone.” He also complained about the cost of the economic stimulus package.

Maynard also addressed his concern for the “war on coal” which he says is run by U.S. Congressional House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama.

Rahall countered in his opening statements saying the American process allowing questioning of candidates was a wonderful tool for the American people. Unfortunately, he said, people have misused healthy skepticism to “provoke the fear factor during tough economic times.”

“The TV ads for example, that have been running against me. They deserve the seven D’s -- disappointing, disingenuous, disgusting, disturbing, despicable, and you know what... downright desperate,” Rahall said in his opening statement. “... The clichés and the soundbites that we have heard during this campaign come straight from the ‘peckerwoods in D.C.’ You know who termed that? The late (Sen.) Robert C. Byrd.”

Rahall also told the crowd that while his mentor was the recently deceased Byrd, Maynard looks up to Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. The relationship between Blankenship and Maynard during a time when Maynard was presiding over a case involving Blankenship has been scrutinized throughout the race. Rahall also pointed to a situation in which Maynard called a man who was questioning him on the Marshall campus a “degenerate.”

The two did largely agree on two topics, the state’s need for infrastructure and reduction of global military presence. Both said that basic infrastructure would be a prime concern. They did however disagree on how to go forward.

Maynard said Congress has wasted too much money “it doesn’t have.” He also called for Congress to stop spending money on things such as the “so-called stimulus package.”

“It has wasted and squandered a trillion dollars of taxpayer money. It has created jobs in far-off places like China. It created jobs in South Korea,” Maynard said. “... It is a huge waste of taxpayer money.”

Rahall argued that despite Maynard’s claim, the stimulus package did benefit several West Virginia projects.

When asked to explain contributions from a man later convicted of terrorist acts, Rahall said he returned the money when he found out about the conviction, as many politicians who received contributions from the same man had done.

“Outside groups come into our state and spend money without having to account for who is giving them money,” Rahall said. “I am asking my opponent tonight to ask the American Conservative Foundation to reveal publicly who their donors are, Spike?”

Maynard did not directly respond to Rahall’s request. In his response, he said Rahall was the largest congressional recipient of funds from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Many of Maynard’s responses focused on trimming government debt and expenditures, supporting coal and leading change against the Obama administration. Rahall primarily focused on plans to use his 34 years of seniority and experience coupled with a strategy of working across party lines to move the state forward.

— E-mail: tkuykendall@register-herald.com