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Workman, Humphreys spar at debate

April 16, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Issues took a back seat to personal attacks during a debate between Democratic congressional candidates James Humphreys and Margaret Workman at Wright Denny Intermediate School Monday night.

Humphreys and Workman are seeking the Democratic nomination for the 2nd Congressional District in the May 14 primary. The winner will face off against Republican incumbent Shelley Moore Capito.

During Monday's debate, sponsored by the Jefferson County League of Women Voters, Workman asked Humphreys whether he refused to testify in a state government corruption case in the early 1990s until he was granted immunity.

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She was referring to the federal corruption trial of Charleston businessman William T. Ellis. Ellis was accused of bribing lawmakers to give state money to a Kanawha County racetrack.

Calling the claims "lies and distortions," Humphreys said he requested immunity in the case but he did not need the protection.

Humphreys said he was never a target in the case and requested immunity only upon the advice of attorneys. He said he testified before two grand juries.

Workman also hinted that Humphreys had tax troubles and later confronted him over the money he spends on elections.

Workman said those are the kinds of issues that Capito will use against Humphreys if he is victorious in the May 14 Democratic primary.

"Folks, wake up and smell the coffee. There's certain things Mr. Humphreys cannot change," said Workman, a former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice.

Humphreys said Workman expressed an interest in running a clean campaign, "but she's taking a playbook out of the Republican's attack ads."

Humphreys said there once was an allegation that he did not pay any taxes when in reality he has paid $2 million in taxes.

Workman said the amount of money Humphreys has spent on elections has been "obscene."

"Mr. Humphreys wants campaign finance reform for everyone but himself," she said.

Workman said Humphreys spent $7 million in the 2000 election and "still managed to lose the seat" to Capito, who spent about $1.3 million.

Humphreys said he was outspent if Republican "soft money" donations from outside the state are taken into account.

Humphreys said half of the $7 million he spent in 2000 was needed to defend himself against one of the most popular elected officials in the state, former Secretary of State Ken Hechler.

Workman declined to answer a question on how much of her own family's money she will spend in the campaign, but she called it a "pittance" compared to what Humphreys will spend.

Workman touted her credentials as the first woman ever elected to statewide office. She served from 1988 to 2000 as a state Supreme Court justice.

Humphreys is a former delegate who has become wealthy as a trial attorney, including by winning cases against asbestos manufacturers. He said not having to raise money for campaigns gives him freedom from answering to financial backers.

When Workman pressed Humphreys on issues relating to the state corruption case and taxes, Humphreys requested more time to respond.

He asked for two minutes, but moderator Jean Neely only gave him 30 seconds.

"No, no, I've been attacked today," said Humphreys.

On the issues, the two candidates both support the concept of farmland protection, clean fuel technologies and workers' compensation. Both said they support extended health care benefits for seniors and the unemployed, as well as a patients' bill of rights.

Both said they would pay for new programs by repealing parts of last year's tax cut pushed through by President Bush that gave breaks to large corporations and wealthy Americans.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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