On Sunday, the state Democratic Party began making several thousand robocalls to registered Republican voters in several West Virginia legislative districts that elected Republicans to the state Legislature.
The robocalls criticized two recent television advertisements, paid for by the Republican Governors Association, attacking Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for supporting two pieces of legislation that were also supported by a majority of Republican legislators.
The RGA ads back Bill Maloney, a Republican and Morgantown businessman challenging incumbent Gov. Tomblin, a Democrat.
Larry Puccio, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said on Monday morning, "We felt that it was necessary to make these calls because one of two things have taken place.
"Obviously the Republican Governors Association has thrown the majority of Republican legislators under the bus for Maloney's personal gain who voted for this responsible legislation," Puccio said.
"Or they have purposely attempted to mislead the public by not letting them know that this was bipartisan legislation, supported by most Republican legislators, that they are attacking in their ads.
"We will continue to educate the public about the hypocritical claims in these ads," Puccio said.
House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said Republican legislators "stand firmly behind Bill Maloney."
"While Republicans in the legislature have been fighting for real change to create jobs in our state, Governor Tomblin and the Democrat leadership have failed to address the challenges facing our people ... Instead of working to improve the lives of our citizens, their supporters are using old style tactics to try to divert attention from the Democrats' own failure to lead," Armstead said.
Maloney campaign manager Seth Wimer said the robocalls were "desperate, dirty tricks [that] might be the norm for a career politician like Earl Ray Tomblin. But the voters of West Virginia deserve better."
Robocalls, often used by businesses and political campaigns, are pre-recorded messages sent using computerized telephone dialing systems.
One of the RGA ads recently aired on television criticized a mine reclamation bill that passed the state Senate, 33-0, and the House of Delegates, 85-14.
The West Virginia Coal Association also backed the legislation, which increased taxes on coal produced in the state to pay for cleaning up abandoned mine lands and polluted waters.
A second RGA ad attacked the other post-employment benefits bill. Legislators passed the OPEB legislation to control future non-pension payments to retired state workers and public school teachers, payments such as health-care benefits. The RGA ad compared OPEB to "Obamacare."
The OPEB bill passed the Senate unanimously and the House by an 83-17 vote. The majority of Republican legislators supported it.
Sen. Karen Facemyer, R-Jackson, said on Friday, "OPEB got us on track to pay off some debts to protect our retired workers. I had no idea it would turn out to be part of Obamacare.
"Some people do whatever it takes to be elected. It doesn't have to be true. That is what is wrong with our political process," Facemyer said.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5164.