Democrats running to represent the second congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives are unapologetically West Virginian.
Meshea Poore, who currently represents the 37th district in the West Virginia House of Delegates, and Nick Casey, a lawyer and accountant who once served as the chairman of the state Democratic Party, met Thursday afternoon with the Daily Mail editorial board. Both said they see the dysfunction in Congress, and they would work to represent all of West Virginia.
“West Virginians are strong,” Poore said. “Our roots are deep.”
Poore was appointed to the House of Delegates in January 2010 to fill a vacancy. She successfully defended the seat that November, earning 88 percent of the vote. She has seen success as a legislator, serving on the Health and Human Resources, Judiciary, Constitutional Review and Small Business committees. This past session, she served as chairwoman of the Legislative Rule-making Committee.
But, she said, she’s a servant who sees a need in all of West Virginia.
“I believe in this state enough to say ‘take a risk on me because I will always fight for you,’” she said.
Meanwhile, Casey has never before held political office. He has served as president of the West Virginia State Bar, is currently treasurer of the American Bar Association and is chairman of the board for St. Francis Hospital. But he said he sees the lack of compromise within the federal government and thinks he has the experience to alleviate some of those problems.
“I look at that dysfunctional Congress, I look at that lack of leadership in Congress and say ‘what can I bring to Congress to help them do what they’re supposed to do,’” Casey said. “They’re a deliberative body that discusses issues. They’re a body that can disagree on issues, but they’re a body that really has a charge for the people elected to go there and operate and function. I think I can bring that kind of skill set to the institution of Congress.”
Although there may be dysfunction in Congress, there’s not much separation between the two candidates. Casey and Poore agreed on most issues, including immigration reform, the Affordable Care Act, women’s issues and energy. Poore has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, which nationally has targeted coal and natural gas — two things important to the state’s economy. But Poore contends the endorsement does not reflect her voting record, which shows she has been supportive of the coal and natural gas industries.
She said she can work to protect both jobs and the environment.
“The reality is, we did have a water crisis,” she said, noting 300,000 West Virginians of all socio-economic and racial backgrounds couldn’t use their water. “We have to be able to have a relationship and conversation that jobs have nothing to do with air and clean water.”
The Democratic Party at the federal level hasn’t been supportive of the coal industry, however. Some think the Environmental Protection Agency has become an enemy to West Virginia. But Casey said that’s because the state hasn’t had a strong advocate for the coal industry in the U.S. House.
“I have an energy constituency. I have an energy understanding,” he said. “Energy doesn’t come out of a plug in the wall.”
Casey also would support a procedure change in Congress. At the state level, the Legislature gives agencies, such as the Department of Environmental Protection, the authority to promulgate rules and regulations. But those rules must be approved by the Legislature before they can be enacted. At the federal level, rules developed by regulatory agencies don’t have to meet congressional approval.
“It’s a matter of Congress exerting its muscle,” Casey said.
Both candidates hail from the Charleston area — Casey from Kanawha City and Poore from the West Side. However, Kanawha County is just a small part of the second district, which stretches from Mason County along the Ohio River through Central West Virginia and into the Eastern Panhandle.
But both said they’ve made it a point to campaign in all parts of the district. Poore said that while the issues individual counties may face — drugs, education, agriculture — vary from place to place, they’re issues that affect the state.
“You need a person who is willing to listen to those things,” she said.
Casey traveled to each county courthouse as head of the West Virginia State Bar and also has done extensive traveling in his position with the hospital.
“Geography is diverse,” he said.
Constituents want to be able to talk with their elected officials at the grocery store or at church, Casey said. That’s why if he’s elected, he will commute to Washington from his second home in the Eastern Panhandle. Poore, whose mother is a widow, said she would either move her mother to Berkeley County so she, too, could commute, or maintain residences in both Washington and Charleston.
The winner of the May primary will go on to face the winner of the Republican primary in the November general election. Candidates are running for a two-year term.
Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.