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Candidate for Congress hears seniors' concerns

February 21, 2006|by ROBERT SNYDER

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - U.S. Congress candidate Mike Callaghan dished dinner and aired issues with seniors Monday at the Berkeley Senior Services Center in Martinsburg as part of a campaign stop through the Eastern Panhandle.

Callaghan, a former chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party and one-time secretary of the state's Department of Environmental Protection under Gov. Bob Wise, is seeking the Democratic party's nomination to run against 2nd District incumbent Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., whom he refers to as a water-bearer for the agenda of the Bush administration.

One of three seeking his party's nod, Callaghan said Monday's stop was part of a fact-finding tour for what's on the minds of seniors, whom he said are being ill-served by the country's newly implemented prescription drug plan.

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"I haven't found anyone yet who understands the prescription drug plan," Callaghan said Monday. "It's very complicated."

Callaghan said problems with the plan include bargaining restrictions for prescriptions, the difficulty with choosing a plan and problems people who are unfamiliar with the Internet are having signing up for the plan.

"Those three areas need worked on," he said, without offering specific proposals. "My perception is a lot of people don't have the time or the ability to do this through the Internet."

While expressing concern about continuing problems with the war effort in Iraq, Callaghan also criticized the Bush administration for advocating tax cuts alongside cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and college grant programs.

"I think we need to do a better job supporting people," said Callaghan. "It's time for a change; I think we can do better."

During Monday's dinner, Callahan moved around a roomful of seniors, conversing, swapping stories and listening to concerns. Afterward, he said those present also raised concerns about rising property tax bills brought on by higher assessments.

A Nicholas County native, Callaghan, who served a nine-year stint as assistant U.S. attorney in the southern district, five as head of the criminal division, said corruption in Washington needs to be addressed.

"I want to bring small-town values and experience as a federal prosecutor to help clean the mess up (in Washington)," he said.

Callaghan, who announced his candidacy in November, will face Democrats Robbie Robb and Mark Hunt, both from Kanawha County, in the May 16 primary election.

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