W.Va. governor race enters final days

September 25, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • Bill Maloney, Republican candidate for West Virginia governor, picks red delicious apples at Orr's Farm Market west of Martinsburg, W.Va., during a Sept. 16 campaign stop.
Photo by Matthew Umstead

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Earl Ray Tomblin says his 30-plus years of experience in the West Virginia Legislature gives him a “unique background” that would serve him well if elected governor on Oct. 4.

Republican Bill Maloney, perhaps not surprisingly, contends his Democratic opponent has used his political career in Charleston to build a “good ol’ boy” network that helps his buddies and the Morgantown businessman asserts Tomblin isn’t much of a leader.

Tomblin, 59, of Chapmanville, W.Va., and Maloney, 52, of Morgantown, W.Va., are considered the front-runners in the upcoming special gubernatorial election.

The winner will serve the unexpired four-year term of former Gov. Joe Manchin. Manchin, D-W.Va., was elected last year to serve the unexpired six-year term of the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who died in June 2010. Both terms of office end in 2012.

“Our state is begging for leadership, and I don’t see leadership in the acting governor,” Maloney said of Tomblin, who became the acting governor last fall when Manchin was elected to the Senate.

“Too many issues he leaves up to the Legislature or someone else,” Maloney said in an interview during a visit earlier this month at Orr’s Farm Market west of Martinsburg.  

Maloney cited Manchin’s leadership on the workers compensation issue and noted not everyone was pleased about the taxes that resulted when he “took the bull by the horns and did something about it.”

Maloney, who said he is tired of the state being “last in everything,” indicated he would advocate for judicial and tax reform to move the state’s economy into the 21st century.

Tomblin said in an interview last week in Martinsburg that the state’s economy has already been brought into the 21st century, citing the recruitment of Macy’s $150 million investment in the Eastern Panhandle and potential of Marcellus shale to produce thousands of more jobs, among other developments.

Tomblin added that he has a “proven history” of leadership  as the longest serving president of the state Senate and previous stint as the Senate Finance Committee chairman.

“In state government, you’ve got to work with people to form a consensus,” Tomblin said.

From a personality standpoint, Tomblin said he is quite willing to work with people.

“My door is always open. We sit down, we discuss issues. We have honest disagreements, there’s no doubt, but at the same time I think the end of the day I want what almost all West Virginians want and that’s what’s best for the state of West Virginia.”

Maloney said he’s not a micromanager, but has learned from his work in the industrial drilling business that you can’t take “no” for an answer.

“You’ve got to trust the people under you, but you got to really have a good team — work to a common goal,” Maloney said of his leadership approach.

“It seems like we worry too much about trivial things in politics and all forms of government, we just got to get along better.”

Maloney said the state’s business climate and lack of an intermediate court fails to foster an inviting atmosphere for economic growth and development. Maloney also cited taxes on business inventory are something not applied in most other states, and suggested counties and cities needed to be given the authority to tax differently.

In response to Maloney’s statements about the state’s rankings, Tomblin said Maloney “apparently” hasn’t paid attention to the state’s success in recent years.

“West Virginia is considered one of the best financially run states in the country (and is) one of the four or five states that once again this year has ended up with a surplus,” Tomblin said.

“Our bond rating continues to be upgraded while other states’ bond ratings are going down,” Tomblin said.

“We’ve not had any (state) tax increase for 16 years ... we’re living within our means.”

On global warming, Maloney said he believes that the Earth is in a “cooling cycle” based on trends and “I don’t see global warming as an issue based on anything we’re doing here.”

Tomblin said he wasn’t sure of either being in a cooling cycle or global warming, but said “while we all want a clean environment,” jobs in the state also need to be protected.

In addition to Tomblin and Maloney, Mountain Party candidate Bob Henry Baber, Independent Party candidate Marla Ingels and American Third Position candidate Harry Bertram are also on the ballot with three certified write-in candidates; John R. “Rick” Bartlett of Kingwood, Phil Hudok of Huttonsville and Donald Lee Underwood of Buffalo, according to Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant’s office.

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