By Mannix Porterfield
What does the business community want to hear from the men and women seeking political office this year in West Virginia?
To answer that, one can either join the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce at its traditional “Meet the Candidates” Tuesday, or tune into radio station WWNR.
There is a dearth of candidates planning to shake hands with business interests and the public.
On the statewide level, incumbent Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin definitely isn’t going to make the event, owing to a prior commitment, and Republican challenger Bill Maloney’s attendance was still in doubt as of Friday.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is on the program, yet his GOP rival, Morgantown businessman John Raese, sent word he wouldn’t be able to appear if foggy conditions set in, suggesting that he would fly into Beckley.
Candidates for the Board of Public Works are turning out, along with two candidates seeking a seat on the West Virginia Supreme Court — Democrat Tish Chafin and Republican Allen Loughry.
In the 3rd District congressional race, Republican nominee Rick Snuffer is ticketed to attend, but the Democratic incumbent, Nick Rahall, who has occupied the office 36 years, has another commitment and cannot make it, Chamber president and CEO Ellen Taylor said.
On the local level, Taylor said Raleigh County hopefuls likewise will be at the guest table, including the two women sparring off for the open commission seat — Republican Linda Epling and Democrat Sherrie Hunter.
In addition, candidates for legislative seats will attend.
“So many of the people, especially with our redistricting the way it went, may have an uncertainty of what district they’re in,” Taylor said.
“And then they go to the polls and they end up seeing people’s names on the ballot and they don’t know these people. It really is even more of a reason for people to come and shake hands and meet these candidates and hearing something from them. It’s different than it was the last election. Their territory is different. We really need to encourage people to come out and meet those candidates.”
The event officially starts with a 7 a.m. continental breakfast at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center. The event goes live half an hour later, moderated by Jay Quesenberry of Southern Communications.
The public is invited to attend free of charge but needs to make a reservation to help the Chamber plan on how many to serve at the breakfast by calling 304-252-7328, Taylor said.
“We can still take reservations Monday afternoon,” she added.
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