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Iraq, page scandal spill over into W.Va. debate

October 12, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Wednesday night's debate between U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Democratic challenger Mike Callaghan was light on fireworks, but offered spirited discussion on issues such as the war in Iraq, the Congressional page controversy and other issues.

Spectators packed the auditorium at Martinsburg High School to hear Capito, R-W.Va., and Callaghan give their arguments about why they should be allowed to represent West Virginia's second district in the House of Representatives.

Callaghan said it was time for change in Washington with a war in Iraq that is out of control and multiple scandals in Washington.

He said the United States never should have entered the war in Iraq and said "staying the course" is not a plan to resolve the conflicts in the country.

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"We got a mess over there, don't we? This is the president's war, he took us there," Callaghan said.

Although Capito said she has never said the country needs to stay the course, she said the United States must continue to fund the war effort and give the country's troops the best technology to wage the conflict. Capito said the U.S. needs to win the war and if it does not break the backs of terrorists, their threat will be a greater danger to Americans.

"These people will murder us," Capito said.

Callaghan continued to hammer at the Bush administration, saying he thinks there is no hope of resolving the problem of North Korea conducting nuclear testing because Bush has alienated the world with his foreign policy and now no one likes the U.S.

The best way for the country to address the North Korean controversy is to ride it out until a new administration steps in, Callaghan said.

Capito said the situation needs to be addressed through diplomacy at all levels.

The two candidates were asked how to ensure safety for congressional pages in the wake of the controversy over inappropriate approaches that Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., made to pages.

Capito said Foley's actions were outrageous, and said she believes more members need to be named to a page board, of which she is a member, to prevent similar situations.

Capito said "it was just jaw-dropping to me" when she learned of Foley's actions.

Callaghan said he has asked for Capito to resign from the page board as a result of the controversy and said her ideas for solutions are "a little too late."

Capito said Callaghan was insinuating she was corrupt and defended her work in Congress as a sacred trust similar to the one she took with her husband when they were married.

A member of the audience asked the candidates to give examples of how they have showed independence in their roles.

Capito said she has disagreed with Bush on issues relating to trade and immigration. Regarding immigration, Capito said Bush supports a "pathway to citizenship" but Capito said she thinks the priority is securing the nation's borders.

"I think I have a voice in West Virginia that's known to be independent. I'm a Republican, certainly," Capito said.

Callaghan said he does not have a voting record yet but said he has "been out there every day advocating for the people of West Virginia."

In the debate, sponsored by WEPM radio and The Journal, Capito and Callaghan were given the chance to make opening and closing statements and they were given two minutes to respond to questions from a panel of local reporters.

Following are some other issues debated.

School violence

Callaghan said the solutions lie in law enforcement and education officials working together, although that can be tough when federal budgets for law enforcement are being cut. Capito said there needs to be funding at the federal level in education and law enforcement to combat the problem and other tools available include panic buttons in classrooms.

Energy policy

Capito said she believes more oil refineries need to be built in the U.S. to help control gas prices and there needs to be more oil exploration in areas like the Gulf of Mexico. Callaghan also agreed the country needs to build more oil refineries, but said he disagrees with drilling for oil in Alaska because he thinks the environmental risks are too great.

Patriot Act

Callaghan, a former federal prosecutor, said he has no problem with the wiretapping of phones to nab terrorists and criminals but the problem comes when the administration fails to get proper authorization to conduct the taps. Capito said the act gives the government modern ways to collect information and that is important in a world where people with bad intentions can switch phone numbers within minutes to avoid detection. "Hesitation in this world can mean destruction," Capito said.

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