By Ron Gregory
WILLIAMSON — While a bit of drama continues in the effort to fill an unexpired term on the Mingo County Family Court bench, statewide races are heating up even before Labor Day.
Traditionally, fall campaigns usually begin on the Labor Day weekend, with the general election set for November. This year’s election is Nov. 4.
Sparks have been flying in U.S. Senate and House of Representatives contests for some time but appeared to heat up when Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito and Democrat Secretary of State Natalie Tennant met in a forum at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs. Tennant and Capito are campaigning for election to the Senate seat being vacated by senior U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who has announced his retirement.
Both sides claimed victory in the forum. Tennant had complained earlier in the campaign that Capito was avoiding debates during the campaign. Eventually, Capito has agreed to one formal debate but other forums, such as the one at The Greenbrier, have been scheduled. Those, technically, are not in a debate format.
Protesters gathered this week in front of Capito’s congressional office in Charleston, holding signs that said she is opposed to “equal pay for equal work.” The Kanawha City rally gathered about 100 protesters.
Capito, meanwhile, has continued to link Tennant to unpopular Democrat President Barack Obama. Photos have been circulated showing Tennant at an Obama rally ,along with Second District Democrat Congressional candidate Nick Casey. Capito says Tennant would support the “Obama agenda” if elected. Included in that is the Affordable Care Act, which has been dubbed “ObamaCare.” The act is said to also be highly unpopular in the Mountain State.
Meanwhile, in the hotly-contested House of Representatives race in Southern West Virginia, incumbent Democrat Nick Rahall has been asking why his Republican opponent state Sen. Evan Jenkins, has missed two veterans-related meetings. Jenkins, a former Democrat turned Republican to run against Rahall, missed a meeting of the Select Committee on Veterans Affairs in Bridgeport. It marked the second time Jenkins has missed one of the committee meetings, of which he is a member. Earlier, he missed a meeting on veterans affairs while raising campaign funds in New York City. That time, he appeared on the morning “Fox and Friends” television show while the meeting was going on.
As a part of their meeting this week in Bridgeport, the committee toured the nearby Veterans Administration Hospital. Jenkins missed the tour. A request for an explanation of the senator’s absence was not immediately answered Thursday by his campaign staff. Rahall has asked if Jenkins was again fundraising instead of appearing for the tour.
On the other hand, Jenkins has launched a new television ad questioning Rahall’s assertion that he should be re-elected. The ad, called “Parked” by the Jenkins campaign, notes that Rahall has been in Congress for 38 years and touts his seniority. But the ad shows a public parking garage named in Rahall’s honor and insists, “the only one benefiting from Rahall’s 38 years is Rahall himself.”
Rahall also appeared recently in Mullens to join in the celebration of funding for the King Coal Highway that will finish connecting the town to interstates 77 and 64. A bill passed by the state Legislature to enable Public-Private Partnerships on road building enabled the funding that will complete the 3.3-mile stretch of highway, Rahall said.
In the Senate race, Capito visited Monongahela General Hospital in Morgantown with Sen. John Barrasso of Maryland to “discuss what needs to be fixed with ObamaCare.” The Maryland senator is a medical doctor.
Other interim committee sessions included a discussion of calling a special legislative session to delay implementation of the above-ground storage tank legislation. The tougher rules were to take effect Jan. 1, 2015, but legislators say the deadline cannot be met. Another separate meeting included discussion of the new Common Core educational standards bill. Mingo Del. Harry Keith White said, “My sense is that most teachers and administrators in the area and state are concerned about Common Core.” He said he felt a one-year “pilot project” should have been implemented before “forcing that program on the schools in the state.”
In the Mingo Family Court judge matter, County Clerk “Big Jim” Hatfield said this week he has sent the fall ballot off to the printer. A proof of the ballot is expected soon and Hatfield said he listed Democrat Jonathan “Duke” Jewell as the only candidate for the unexpired term. The winning candidate will fill the term vacated by Circuit Judge Miki Thompson when she was elevated to her current position by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
Traditionally, a United Mine Workers of America Labor Day picnic has kicked off the fall campaign. It is scheduled again this year in the Boone County community of Racine.