By Pamela Pritt
For the WVPA
BECKLEY, W.Va. — Sen. Bill Cole, the Republican nominee for governor has committed to two debates with Democratic opponent Jim Justice, whose campaign says it is still working out details for an on-stage confrontation between the two.
The Cole campaign accused Justice Thursday of avoiding “speaking directly to voters.”
The West Virginia Press Association has invited the two candidates to participate in a debate Oct. 4.
Cole “gladly accepted,” according to a media release from his campaign.
“To date, the Justice campaign is requiring stipulations that should be left to the organizers and has refused to commit to the debate,” the release continued.
Justice’s campaign responded with a briefly worded release of its own.
“Bill Cole is desperate and making up more lies,” said Grant Herring, Justice’s campaign manager.
“Jim Justice wants to have an honest debate focused on job creation and education,” Herring said. “We are currently working out the details to debate this fall. The people deserve a forum to cut through the political circus.”
The West Virginia Broadcasters Association has also invited the candidates to debate; Cole has accepted, but Justice has not.
According to WVPA executive director Don Smith, West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Ashton Marra is likely to moderate the October debate. The Cole campaign said Metro News anchor Hoppy Kercheval may moderate the Broadcasters Association debate.
Earlier this week Justice released a “Retrofit Initiative” designed to cut utility costs by identifying public buildings that can be made more energy efficient. The campaign said the move would create jobs and improve the learning and working environment.
The Cole campaign has not laid out his plan, but his legislative record speaks to the candidate’s beliefs that cutting taxes and deregulation of industry is the recipe for job creation that would broaden
the taxpayer base.
Since he has been Senate President, Cole has pushed such an agenda and has been successful in passing a right to work law and eliminating prevailing wage standards.
He said those measures would help the state’s struggling economy.
Cole’s campaign manager Kent Gates said the candidate’s comprehensive economic plan will be released in the next few weeks.