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Warner takes his message to Berkeley County voters

August 21, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Standing on the steps of the Berkeley County Courthouse Friday afternoon, Republican gubernatorial candidate Monty Warner said that if he is elected, he will eliminate the "corruption and cronyism" prevalent throughout the state.

Warner said he will use investigative powers to look into alleged misuses of state money and will even declare such actions illegal if need be.

Warner, who will face Democrat Joe Manchin in the general election in November, said he plans to spend more time "per capita" campaigning in the Eastern Panhandle than anywhere else in the state.

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The Eastern Panhandle is removed not only geographically, but economically and socially from the state capital in Charleston. The area is not steeped in corruption, Warner said, and could help lead the way for the rest of the state.

About 12 people attended Warner's speech.

One man asked of his plan for the food tax. Like other goods in the state, food is taxed at a rate of 6 percent.

"It's a punitive burden on poor people," Warner replied.

Warner said he favors eliminating the tax by reducing it 1 percentage point each year over the next six years. Although the tax raises about $25 million a year in revenue, some of the loss might be recouped by residents who stop crossing the state line to buy groceries, Warner said.

In a booming voice that carried over the noise of a passing siren, Warner denounced his opponent.

He mentioned an election fraud scandal in Logan County, in which an attorney and several others were charged in an alleged vote-buying scheme. The attorney involved has said he plans to plead guilty.

As Secretary of State and chief election officer, Manchin either was ignorant of what was going on in Logan County, knew it was going on but did not know what to do about it, or knew about it and chose not to do anything, Warner said.

"You attack it with zero tolerance," Warner said of such scams. He said state government can set an example of frugality that is followed in the rest of the state.

Another audience member asked about locality pay for certain residents, including teachers, who can make a much higher salary by working in a neighboring state.

If elected, Warner said he will have a Legislature that will turn over power to local governments whenever possible. Locality pay then could be addressed locally, he said.

Other plans include reforming the state's workers' compensation program and reorganizing the court system to make it less friendly toward plaintiff's attorneys, Warner said.

Accomplishing those tasks should help lower insurance rates, he added.

Warner, 48, grew up in Kanawha County, W.Va., graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and spent 25 years in the Army before retiring last summer as a colonel. He served tours of duty in the Pentagon and oversaw its $12 million budget, he said.

Warner now lives in Charleston and, with his three brothers, owns a real estate development business in Morgantown, W.Va.

After his speech, a woman walking by stopped Warner and asked whether he is a Republican or Democrat.

"I'm a West Virginian," he replied.

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