WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — All of the major-party candidates running for Congress in West Virginia’s 1st and 2nd congressional districts will work to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency and cut federal spending and none will vote for Rep. Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House.
Nick Casey and Alex Mooney, the candidates for the 2nd District, which includes Charleston, and Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and state Auditor Glen Gainer, candidates in the northern 1st District, addressed the state Chamber of Commerce’s annual business summit at The Greenbrier resort Friday morning.
The Second District race is shaping up as a contest between what voters like less: a Democrat who supported President Obama in the past (Casey) or a Republican who moved to West Virginia about 18 months ago and immediately filed to run for Congress (Mooney).
Casey said 80 percent of his donations come from West Virginians, and that 35 percent of those donations come from Republicans, while only 5 percent of Mooney’s donations come from in-state.
“I’m a true West Virginian,” said Casey, who repeatedly described himself as conservative. “Contrary to some of the rhetoric that flows around, I’m not a liberal Hollywood-based trial lawyer.”
Mooney, a former Maryland state senator and former head of that state’s Republican Party, countered that he is a “West Virginian by choice.” He spoke repeatedly of an overbearing federal government.
“What else is out-of-control federal government doing to us?” Mooney asked after bashing the “war on coal.” He responded with a litany of things, from debt, to failed gun legislation to the president’s health-care law.
Casey countered that government is broken because neither side is moderate enough.
“If you get people on either extreme, they will break this government,” he said. “People say that government’s no good. The coal barges need to go through the [locks] on the Kanawha River; we need government to make sure the locks run.”
Mooney said he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which he says is too expensive, is costing businesses, costing jobs and is “attacking our freedoms.”
Casey has said he wants to change some parts of the law — such as the employer mandate, which has not yet gone into effect but will require large businesses to provide health insurance to their employees.
West Virginia has benefited more from the law than almost any other state. More than 137,000 low-income West Virginians have signed up for the law’s expanded Medicaid program, the second-highest sign-up rate in the nation, and the state’s uninsured rate has fallen faster than almost any other state.
“I believe my values represent West Virginia values,” Mooney said. “I am the only candidate in this race who will stand up and fight back against Barack Obama and his liberal allies.”
One of those allies, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., emerged as a bit of a bogeyman as the event’s moderator asked each candidate who they would support for House leadership.
Both Democrats, Casey and Gainer, said they would not support Pelosi, their party’s leader in the House. Republicans, Mooney and McKinley, joked that they also would not vote for Pelosi — although neither committed to voting for current House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
McKinley said his priorities in Congress are to cut spending, push back against the EPA and repeal “Obamacare,” which he twice called disastrous.
He touted a bill that would prevent the EPA from regulating coal ash as one of his many efforts to fight the agency.
The most recent and most high profile EPA regulations would curtail emissions from coal-fired power plants, in an effort to stop climate change.
McKinley disagrees with the EPA’s basic premise — which is established science — that man-made carbon emissions are causing climate change.
“No, they’re not,” McKinley said after the event, a position at odds with the majority of climate reasearchers. He said the climate is changing, but he pointed to things like weather patterns and the rotation of the Earth as contributing factors.
Gainer touted some of his accomplishments in his 21 years as state auditor, like introducing direct deposit, purchasing cards, the state’s Rainy Day Fund and a computerized vendor system for state contractors.
He also promised to fight the EPA. He pushed corporate tax reform, to lower rates on businesses.
McKinley and Gainer chatted amiably for several minutes before the event and neither made any serious attacks against his opponent.
Ed Rabel, an independent candidate running in the 2nd District, criticized the state Chamber of Commerce for excluding him. In an email earlier this week, Rabel said he wasn’t invited because he has criticized oil, gas and coal companies. Davy Jones, a Libertarian candidate in the 2nd District, also was not a part of the event.
Reach David Gutman at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5119 or follow @davidlgutman on Twitter.