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Unger to run for U.S. House

May 31, 2007|by DON AINES

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - West Virginia State Sen. John Unger will formally announce today he is running in 2008 for the Second District seat to the U.S. House of Representatives held by Republican U.S. Rep. Shelly Moore Capito.

Unger's announcement will take place at 4 p.m. at the West Virginia Veterans Memorial at the State Capitol complex in Charleston, W.Va., according to his office. U.S. Reps. Nick Rahall, D-3rd, and Alan Mollohan, state Treasurer John Perdue and Nick Casey, chairman of the state Democratic Committee, also are scheduled to attend.

"I'm not running against anyone specifically. I'm running for the U.S. House," Unger said Wednesday. "Part of the reason I say that is I want to bring in a new kind of politics" that will not use "slash-and-burn" tactics and personal attacks, he said.

"I don't think any of us win with that ... I want to have a very positive campaign, looking at the issues," the 38-year-old state senator said.

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Those issues include the war in Iraq, the war on terrorism and universal health care, said Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson.

"We need to bring the troops home. We need a clear mission on how to do that," Unger said of the war in Iraq.

Unger has been to Iraq twice, in 1991 working with nongovernmental relief agencies helping the Kurds in northern Iraq during Operation Provide Comfort, and in 2003, working in southern Iraq with Save the Children International.

On the 2003 mission, Unger said Save the Children set up and operated schools, trained Iraqis and then handed it over to the Iraqis to run.

"It's time to turn that country over to the Iraqi people," he said.

"The National Guard is now being utilized in Iraq," a mission for which it was not intended, Unger said.

The National Guard units should return home to take up missions including "critical infrastructure defense" and protecting the borders as part of the war on terrorism.

"We have to finish the job in Afghanistan," he said of the war on terrorism. "We've got to continue to be tough and strike at the networks threatening our homeland."

"Part of what I want to do over the next 18 months is get out in the community and talk to the patients, talk to the doctors and health-care providers," Unger said. By the end of that process, he said he will have developed a comprehensive health-care plan.

The issue goes beyond a healthy population, Unger said. A healthy population and work force, he said, "is actually part of an economic development, job creation initiative."

Unger, one of the youngest state senators when elected at age 28 in 1998, is in his third term. He is chairman of the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and chairman of the state Water Resources Commission.

Unger said he was the sponsor of Senate Bill 177 that has been signed into law and will create a state Division of Energy. The law, he said, mandates that the state have and implement an energy policy and work toward energy independence, he said.

West Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Nick Casey said earlier this month that Unger would have "geography going for him" in a potential race.

Based on Unger's margin of victory in a re-election bid last fall, Casey believes Unger could lose the vote in Kanawha County, where Capito resides, and still win the race.

"He looks equal to her in Kanawha, and stronger than her in Berkeley and Jefferson counties," Casey said.

Capito, R-W.Va., is expected to formally announce her candidacy for a fifth consecutive term in Congress later this year or in early 2008, the 2nd District congresswoman's spokesman Jordan Stoick said Tuesday.

"She believes it is a little too early to be talking about campaigning, but is currently taking the steps necessary to seek and win a fifth term in the House."

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