Friday, September 30, 2011

Nothing special here -- West Virginia can do better

Attention West Virginians!  Did you know the special election for governor will be held this Tuesday?  Yeah, I admit I had forgotten about the race as well.

Since Joe Manchin resigned his seat as governor to fill the vacancy in the United States Senate, the spot for chief executive of the state remains open.  However, I cannot determine which candidate deserves my vote.  Disappointment probably best describes how I feel about the candidates.  Here is the breakdown of the two major candidates:

Earl Ray Tomblin (D)

The good:  Tomblin boasts more political experience than all his other challengers combined, serving over 30 years in the House of Delegates and State Senate.  He holds the title of Senate President, which currently provides him with executive authority since the office of governor is vacant.  Those decades of experience in the legislature should allow him to work with the law-making body to make choices best for the state.

The bad:  Tomblin must overcome the following labels:  career politician, 'good ole boy' and Logan County.  Also, the last year gave him an opportunity to 'audition' as governor and what did he accomplish?  Forcing the legislature to cut the food tax by a whopping 1%.  Political ploy?  Definitely.

The ugly:  The campaign is weak.  Tomblin's top two goals?  More jobs and lower taxes.  Granted, those make for excellent sound bites, but can the Wildcat deliver?   Some of the statements on Tomblin's campaign website: 
"I believe we can make changes in our government that will help the private sector to create jobs."
"As Governor, I’ll fight for lower taxes, fair and reasonable regulation, and schools that are second to none in preparing our children to compete and win in the world economy."
Tomblin does not elaborate on the details to help the private sector and as for the second statement, what sane politician would not want claim to fight for those items?

Moreover, Tomblin has been part of a state government over the last three decades that has seen West Virginia consistently rank among the worst states in the nation.  What reason should we have for voting him to an even higher position?  He also opted to run negative ads distorting the truth about Bill Maloney's business dealings. 

Sadly, name recognition and the Democrat party label will garner a large number of votes for Tomblin. 

Bill Maloney (R)

The good:  Maloney offers West Virginians a fresh face to a state tired of stale leadership in a frustrating economy.  Maloney's lack of political experience won't work against him in the current political climate and he has social views West Virginians love.  Maloney supports traditional marriage, the 2nd Amendment, and defines himself as 'pro-life.' 

Additionally, Maloney has a great personal story that West Virginians can appreciate.  He has been a part of starting successful business in the drilling industry, including providing a role in the rescue of trapped Chilean miners last year.  Maloney's experience could prove valuable in developing the large quantities of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale regions.

The bad:  Though Maloney has had success as a businessman, this doesn't mean he's automatically qualified to be a governor.  He has no record to run on -- only vague promises.  Maloney has promised on to abolish practically any tax on businesses.  His promises are very politician-like: 

"I’d fight against unfair taxes and job-killing regulations. I’d cut wasteful government spending and remove red tape. I’d fix our out-dated courts and end our lawsuit abuse problem. I’d stand-up to intrusive federal agencies that threaten our jobs. I’d demand accountability from our schools and more local control for parents and educators."

Could Maloney do everyone in the state a favor and explain precisely how he would accomplish these lofty goals?

The ugly:  Maloney's campaign apparently has backers who know how to sling mud as well as Tomblin's people.  Factcheck.org characterized this gubernatorial race as one of the dirtiest -- check out the article.  Also, Maloney's answer to economic problems of the state is to remove taxes to create a better 'business climate' and eliminate government regulations. 

Again, lowering taxes makes for great campaign material, but actually reducing taxes would require passage from the Democratic controlled state legislature.  And if passed, losing important taxes from business would deprive the state of much needed revenue for carrying out the tasks of government.

Overall analysis of the race:  Neither candidate truly sparks the interest of the people.  More people turned out to watch college football last Saturday (Marshall vs. Virginia Tech / West Virginia vs. LSU) than will turn out for the special election on Tuesday.  Need I remind anyone of the 12% voter turnout for the 'special' primary?

The candidates have no appeal and make only vague promises that sound wonderful, but offer little in the way of specific paths to lifting up the state and its people.  Attempting to sell West Virginians on lower taxes and job creation is misleading and

Maloney and Tomblin have avoided the issues facing West Virginia and chosen to drown the people in negative ads that have little to no basis in fact.  Then again, after the 'snoozer' that some people called a debate, I suppose negative ads are the only option for two candidates who lack leadership skills, direction, or any passion for West Virginia.

I can't stand the thought of not voting and I will visit the polls to make a choice, but I have a better understanding of why some folks choose to stay home.  West Virginia has to be able to produce better leaders than this ...

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