The HAGERSTOWN herald-Mail
SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — Joe Manchin had help rebuffing repeated assertions Tuesday night by Republican John Raese that West Virginia’s junior Democratic senator was on the wrong political team in Washington.
Mountain Party candidate Bob Henry Baber said Raese’s linking of Manchin to President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s positions on the regulation of the state’s coal industry amounted to a “bald -faced lie,” saying Manchin is “too close to coal.”
In closing remarks, Baber said he sometimes felt as if he was the only Democrat on stage at Shepherd University’s Reynolds Hall for the debate, which lasted about 75 minutes.
“The Mountain Party is here to represent the common people,” said Baber, adding his party speaks up for the trees, the state’s mountains and the people who have been left behind.
In response to practically every question posed by the debate panelists on economic, education, health care, environment and foreign policy issues, Raese sought to link Manchin with Obama.
About the only thing Raese and Manchin seemed to agree upon was that the state is embroiled in a “war on coal” with the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Joe’s heart is in the right place and we know that, but the problem is Joe’s on the wrong team,” said Raese, who ran unsuccessfully against Manchin in a special election for the Senate seat two years ago that was formerly held by the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd.
Manchin, who repeatedly cited his record as the state’s governor, responded by saying the only teams he is a member of are for America and West Virginia.
Raese said he would vote to repeal “Obamacare” when asked what he would do to promote job growth in the state.
Manchin later said he has been in favor of reforming and repairing the controversial health care legislation, not repealing it, citing successful efforts to eliminate an onerous business regulation that he supported.
“The people that say repeal — what are you going to replace it with?” Manchin asked.
Raese said Obamacare is endangering the world’s greatest health care system, noting the leaders of other nations come to the U.S. for treatment.
Baber countered that it is only the greatest health care system for those who can afford the cost.
“If you’re middle class, you’re at risk,” said Baber, saying he supports universal health care and doesn’t believe the president’s health care legislation went far enough.
When asked about environmental protection regulations in regard to Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts, Raese said he would favor abolishing the U.S. Department of Energy and the EPA, saying they are redundant to existing state agencies and are “terrorizing” businesses.
Raese then cited his own apparent tangle with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA in building a golf course in the Morgantown area where he resides, saying he was being chastised by government for his economic development.
Baber, who lamented the environmental effects of mountain-top removal in the coal-mining industry, said reclamation regulations are “a total joke” and suggested the state could become a green energy leader and should diversify the economy.
Manchin cited his work as governor to develop legislation requiring new, better uses for mined land.