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Congressional candidates debate in West Virginia

October 10, 2000

Congressional candidates debate in West Virginia



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff, Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The first debate among the three candidates running for Congress from the second congressional district revealed differences in opinion about the role of the federal government.

"I'm for less government and I mean it," said Libertarian Party candidate John Brown, who repeated the theme throughout the debate Tuesday night at the Apollo Theater.

Republican Shelley Moore Capito also said she wanted to make government smaller, citing measures as public-private partnerships to find solutions to problems.

Democrat Jim Humphreys said, "I don't think anyone wants to see government larger." But he said government programs meet the needs of many people.

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"I want it to be more efficient," Humphreys said.

His statement led Brown to remark, "I still can't believe Jim Humphreys said he wants less government." Brown said Humphreys proposed 91 new or expanded programs on his Web site without saying how to pay for them.

Differences among the three were also highlighted during discussion of education programs.

Humphreys said the federal government has "a critical and central role of education in the country."

Capito was less certain, saying the 7 percent of education spent by the federal government should be distributed by local citizens.

"I don't think a bureaucrat in Washington D.C. can tell anybody in Berkeley County ... the best way to educate a child in Berkeley County," she said.

"The federal government has no role in education," Brown said.

The trio disagreed on vouchers for parents to send their children to private schools.

"I oppose vouchers," Humphreys said. "One of the great commitments this country has made is to a free public education."

Capito said she supports "limited vouchers."

"I have a deep concern about some students who are getting a subpar education in our schools," she said. She would target vouchers at them.

Brown said vouchers would come with government strings and prefers tax credits instead.

The three set different priorities in their statements.

"You can do more with the surplus than has been proposed by the Republican Party," Humphreys said as he proposed helping those who can't help themselves.

Capito stressed her record as a state legislator, especially in pushing job creation and retention and in children's health issues and a patient's bill or rights.

"My opponent is really ignorance," Brown said. The more people who know about his party, the more support he will get, he said.

Capito said she was glad for the debate, which she has been seeking with Humphreys for some time.

"We at least have this one benchmark to go off of," she said as the debate ended.

Brown added some humor to the debate with a joke about his name. "If I'm a little nervous tonight it's because the last John Brown to come through this area didn't fare very well," he said.

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