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Rep. Capito sounds off on Bush, issues

February 01, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Two weeks after filing for re-election, U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito visited Martinsburg on Thursday, where she said she had about $650,000 for her campaign for a fifth term in Congress.

"I've got a lot of energy," said Capito, 54, smiling before she spoke to the Martinsburg Rotary Club and answered members' questions at the Holiday Inn. "Those Diet Cokes really keep me going."

The lawmaker is not opposed in the May 13 primary election to be the Republican Party's nominee for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

First elected in 2000, Capito was expected to receive a challenge in the November general election from Democratic state Sen. John Unger II until the three-term Berkeley County lawmaker decided not to file for Congress at the last minute last week.

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Surprised by Unger's decision not to run, Capito took offense to remarks that implicated she was part of an election process where campaign contributions were being used to buy lawmakers' votes.

"I think that's a slap in the face to everybody who has to raise money," Capito said.

In a news release announcing he was putting his pursuit of higher office on hold, Unger said some lawmakers had "mastered the art of trading their votes for campaign contributions" and said he didn't want to be part of a system burdened and crippled by the chase for money.

Unger had raised more than $250,000 by the fall of 2007, according to campaign finance reports filed last year with the Federal Election Commission.

In her brief speech to the Rotary Club on Thursday, Capito said she was "on board" with the proposed stimulus package passed by the House and pending in the Senate. Capito's appearance in Martinsburg came after she took part in an export achievement award ceremony honoring Schonstedt Instrument Co. in Kearneysville, W.Va.

Capito also said she supported the president on proposed legislation that would upgrade foreign intelligence gathering, but still protect Americans' civil liberties.

In the past four or five years, Capito acknowledged that Congress had overspent the budget, but she defended earmarks she made, including money that was identified for the long-standing Inwood, W.Va., stormwater project in southern Berkeley County.

"We haven't been tight enough with our purse strings," Capito said of pending earmark reform that would cut the amount of such allocations by half.

Though Capito said she had not endorsed any Republican presidential candidate, she did mention Sen. John McCain's support of earmark reform as being one of his big issues.

While answering questions from Rotarians, Capito appeared to put some distance between herself and President Bush.

"I think he's had a difficult hand dealt to him," said Capito, adding that history would judge whether the president's decisions on Iraq were right.

"If I had any criticism of the president, ... I think it's the perception - real or otherwise - that he's too stubborn," Capito said.

Capito also noted that she didn't think the president was the best communicator of his policies or initiatives.

When asked about the departure of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Capito said Bush's former Cabinet member should have left earlier and probably would be an Achilles' heel for the president's legacy.

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