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Carol Miller is running for Congress, but she won’t say what she plans to do if she gets there.

On a range of issues from health care, to the opioid epidemic, to energy policy, Miller, the majority whip in the state House of Delegates and Republican candidate in the 3rd District, said she’ll figure it out.

Studies show the cost of health care relative to gross domestic product has increased steadily, both before and after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. When asked how to fix health care markets, Miller balked at the question.

“Do you really think I could give you an answer on that?” she said in a telephone interview. “I mean, it’s been going on, and the ACA just complicated it even more.”

She did say she would vote to repeal the ACA and there should be a general plan for what that repeal should look like, but she’s not sure what that would be.

“Well you know, I’ve got to get to Congress first before I can see all the various options that will be out there,” she said. “I can’t suppose what I’m going to do.”

As far as what she would do to combat the opioid epidemic, Miller said Congress has passed several laws and put money toward West Virginia, but providing quality jobs is most important.

“Well, we passed some in the state and I know they’ve been working on it in a federal level as well, things like medical histories and sharing those kinds of things,” she said. “We have to be more careful. We’ve passed more bills about allowing people to do chiropractic, et cetera as well. I think that the focus, having the first lady come to Lily’s Place, shows there will be a greater focus on our state and on addiction.”

On the potential for Congress to legalize medical marijuana, Miller, who voted in favor of the issue at the state level when it became law, wouldn’t take much of a federal stance. She said she would need to see the bill first.

“Again, when I’m in Congress, I will deal with those things,” she said. “You want me to suppose — I always depend upon what is in a bill before I decide yes, or know I’m going to vote for it.”

Her history on the issue is tricky. While Miller voted in the affirmative, she also supported a key amendment that watered down the bill, prohibiting patients from smoking the plant or growing their own.

In a 2014 interview after a city council meeting she sat in on, a member of a medical marijuana advocacy group asked her, on camera, what she thought about a legalization push.

“I’ve also had physicians tell me that if you’re smoking marijuana and you’re pregnant [interrupted by passerby], they have told me that you can be born with your intestines on the outside and be born with a cleft palate,” she said.

She stood by that view in an interview this week.

The Democrat running against Miller could hardly stand in starker contrast.

For better or for worse, Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, leaves nothing to the imagination about his platform. He regularly hosts forums on social media where he takes questions in real time.

“I don’t know everything, I am not a liar, I do live videos because I want to let people know where I stand, but I also let people know that if you disagree with me, I want you to come on there, let’s debate,” he said.

In an interview this week, he made no bones laying out his policy positions.

He said he is opposed to repealing the ACA. Instead, he said the program should be fixed by offering a public buy-in option for Medicare to build more competitive markets.

“I want to give people the ability to buy into Medicare, I think that if we were able to do just that, it would cause these companies to have to lower premiums and offer better benefits,” he said. “If we do that, people can afford to have better health care for them and their families.”

Ojeda was the lead sponsor of the bill that became the state’s medical marijuana law. Federally, he said he would support legislation to deschedule marijuana and enable states to handle the issue without coming into conflict with federal code.

He said legalizing medical marijuana would also be a move to stymie the opioid epidemic by giving those in chronic pain a non-opiate form of relief.

The real impediment to marijuana legalization, he said, is “big pharma,” a campaign trope he uses referring to the pharmaceutical industry and its increasing sway among lawmakers at the state and federal level.

Pointing to Miller’s financial ties to the industry, he said she’s “in the pocket of big pharma,” profiting from companies who made millions dumping pills in the state while overdose rates skyrocketed.

According to her candidate financial disclosure to the House of Representatives, Miller’s husband, a millionaire within the auto sales industry, owns thousands of dollars in shares between a smattering of industry players. For instance, he owns between $15,000 and $50,000 in Gilead Sciences, as he does in both McKesson Corp. and Merck and Co., along with between $1,000 and $15,000 in Teva Pharmaceuticals.

“For a person to be from Huntington, where the struggle is as real as it has ever been, to be a person that is in the pockets of big pharma and have stock in the very companies that have killed our people, to be making money, profit from that, from this opioid crisis, it is absolutely sickening,” he said.

When Miller was asked to respond to her opponent’s barbs, she grew incensed enough to end the interview 14 minutes in.

“Sounds to me like typical political stuff that you want to say. You know, that’s just dirty politics, and I’m tired of it. And that’s not what I’m going to talk to you about. I have been very strong throughout the years for fighting drug addiction ... My record shows that,” she said. “I don’t want to talk about dirty politics, I don’t want to talk about what my opponent may or may not say about me, that is his business, that is not who I am. It was great talking to you, Jake. I’ve got to go.”

Ojeda criticized Miller for her unwillingness to answer policy questions. He said it’s just a case of a politician trying to see which way the wind blows before she takes a stand.

“She’s not willing to do that because she doesn’t want to answer the questions period,” he said. “She’s the type of person that wants to poll everything.”

The numbers can be confusing when it comes to whether the 3rd District is ready to elect a Democrat. In 2016, it went for President Donald Trump in huge numbers in a state where he remains reliably popular today.

However, Ojeda does not fit the national Democratic mold. He’s quick to criticize conservatives’ “boogeymen” like Hillary Clinton, and he promised not to vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House if Democrats take it back. He voted for Trump, although he said he sometimes feels “buyers remorse” in light of the recent drama surrounding the Trump administration’s recently recanted policy of child separation at the border.

In the primary, Miller won a crowded race with 9,000 votes, or 24 percent of the 37,500 Republican ballots cast. Ojeda won with 30,000 votes, or 52 percent of the 57,000 ballots cast.

After a strong showing in a recent poll from Monmouth University, the national Democratic Party’s growing interest in the race, and the continuing support from organized labor in the state, Ojeda said he is looking to November with nothing but confidence.

Reach Jake Zuckerman at jake.zuckerman@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4814 or follow @jake_zuckerman on Twitter.

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