U.S. Senate candidates debate in Shepherdstown
Candidates debate the issues at Shepherd University.
October 3, 2012 ·
Democrat Joe Manchin, Republican John Raese and Mountain Party candidate Bob Henry Baber clashed on education, the environment, health care and other issues at a United States Senate debate in Shepherdstown last night. The candidates differed on nearly every issue.
For those following West Virginia politics, it might feel like déjà vu.
Following former Sen. Robert C. Byrd’s death in 2010, then Gov. Joe Manchin and businessman John Raese vied for his seat. Manchin pulled out a win.
Now Manchin is defending the seat against Raese and Mountain Party Candidate Bob Henry Baber, an employee at Glenville State College.
Raese attacked Manchin consistently during the evening, accusing him of aligning himself with Washington D.C. Democrats, and the Obama administration, which Raese says are against West Virginia.
"He left West Virginia to play for another team. Who is on that other team? Well at quarterback they have a guy named Barack Obama," Raese said.
"Joe’s heart is in the right place and we know that, but the problem is that Joe is on the wrong team."
But Manchin repeatedly stressed he is working for West Virginia, and its best interests, as a senator in the nation’s capital.
"Let me make it very clear the only team I belong to is team America, and team West Virginia. I’m the most centrist senator in the Senate. I don’t vote for the party, I vote for the issues. Always have, and I always will. I think West Virginia we have proved that you can only fix things by coming together," Manchin said.
Raese aggressively criticized the Obama administration on coal regulations, and environmental policy. He also wants to cut some federal programs that currently regulate the environment.
"The Obama administration has been regulating coal out of existence. Try to get a permit today, if you can," Raese said.
"He doesn’t want to burn fossil fuels, he’s making coal priced so high that it’s not competitive anymore," he said, "I’d like to abolish the Department of Energy, and I would also like to abolish the EPA. I think they are both redundant."
Manchin says all energy resources in the country should be developed, to stop dependence on foreign oil.
He says regulatory practices from the Environmental Protection Agency are unfairly hurting Appalachian coal mining. But he says a balance must be drawn to protect both industry and environmental interests.
"There’s a balance to be had, the economy and the environment has to work together," Manchin said.
Some of the most humorous moments of the night came from Baber, who openly admitted that he supports the law known as Obamacare, and is willing to pay more in taxes to help fix the nation’s debt.
Baber criticized his opponents for being too attached to the coal industry.
Baber says he wants more solar energy production, and supports the abolition of the practice known as mountaintop removal mining.
"I can have a colonoscopy without having to pay anything for it, which I might need after the debate tonight," Baber said to laughter from the audience.
"I’m against Mountaintop removal, I have been from day one, we should never have gone down that road, but we’re in it. So we need to figure out a way over time to transition those miners into other jobs."
On health care, Manchin and Raese clashed over the Affordable Health Care Act.
Manchin says a complete upheaval of the law would be the wrong idea.
"I have been for reforming, repairing, and not repealing. Pre-existing conditions is wrong," Manchin said.
"You don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater, sometimes you just have to change the water every now and then."
Raese disagrees with that. In 2010, Raese fully supported a full repeal of the bill. And he still does.
"This country, right now, I call it a coalition of taking. They are taking our money, they are taking our power, and they are taking our freedom, and they are giving it government to control. That’s unacceptable," Raese said.
On education, the two men clashed again. Manchin says the state can and needs to do much better on public education, but he wants to keep public education infrastructure strong.
"I don’t believe in getting rid of the Department of Education," Manchin said.
Raese wants more opportunities for programs that would allow families a voucher to send their children to private schools, which he says create competition and improve the quality of education.
"We don’t need a federal education system to set our curriculum," Raese said.
Bob Henry Baber addressed the state’s brain drain, or the amount of young West Virginians leaving the state for work.
He says advancements in broadband Internet need to be made to help keep West Virginians working here.
"We need to blanket this state with Internet so that people can compete from their homes, that’s a critical issue," said Baber.
"I think we need to look at creating green energy jobs, using our fossil fuel base to expand and become the green energy producer right here over time."
Early voting is October 24 to November 3. Election Day is on November 6.