Manchin, Morrisey Share the Stage

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By: Jessica Farrish, Beckley Register-Herald

Education, jobs, opioid recovery and infrastructure are key issues facing West Virginia, candidates in the national and state races said Thursday morning.

Around 375 guests attended the annual "Meet the Candidates" breakfast at the Raleigh Convention Center, hosted by the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce.

Among them were United States Sen. Joe Manchin and challenger, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Manchin, a former state governor, told organizers on Tuesday that he would leave Washington in order to attend the breakfast in Raleigh County, his wife's home county. Morrissey, who resides in Jefferson County, committed to attending hours after Manchin had agreed to attend, event organizers reported Thursday.


In questions posed by panelists, Manchin said the country needs an infrastructure bank.

"How do we rebuild America?" Manchin asked. "It's falling down around us, and all the engineers will tell you that. You have to have a funding source."

The senator said there's no funding set aside for maintenance and upgrades to the nation's roads and bridges.

"We're spending trillions of dollars on everything else," he said. "A pothole doesn't know if it's a Democrat or a Republican. A pothole attacks us all."

In a later interview, Manchin said Trump appears to look for a "yes-man" when endorsing candidates. Manchin, the former state governor, suggested he isn't a "yes man" for the president but said he supports a number of Trump's measures, including construction of a 900-mile wall at the southern border, along with 1,100 miles of drone security.

During the breakfast, he said he supports a trade war Trump has launched against China by imposing tariffs on Chinese goods.

"We have to reset the balance," Manchin said. "I'm not concerned about a trade war.

"China is the greatest threat the United States of America has today. Make no bones about it. That's the country we should be worried about.

"This adjustment needs to be made."

Manchin was the only Democrat to support Trump's nomination of Judge of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh, who had been a U.S. Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia before being elevated to the high court, was accused of sexually assaulting a girl when they were both in high school 36 years ago. His nomination was contentious.

Manchin said in an interview that, while he believed that the woman was telling the truth when she said she had experienced something traumatic, he could find no proof that Kavanaugh and the woman had attended the specified party.

"I went through every word the FBI made available to us," he said.

Manchin said Kvanaugh's response to the allegations before the Senate Judiciary Committee "was a very bad performance by him."

Regardless, "I have confidence he will do the job and do a good job," Manchin said.

He also said victims who come forward with accounts of abuse should be supported and that perpetrators should face prosecution, adding, " Abuse shouldn't be tolerated in any way, shape or form in our society, especially sexual abuse."

Manchin said that opioid addiction recovery is still a priority for West Virginia, adding that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had had a "business plan" instead of an enforcement plan when it failed to stop millions of pills flooding the state. He said he does not support changes to the Affordable Care Act that would impact health care coverage to West Virginians, including around 800,000 state residents who have pre-existing conditions.

In an interview, Manchin said he supports second amendment rights.

"Ain't nobody taking my gun," he said.

Manchin said he was proud of state teachers, who had launched the #55Strong strike and became an example to the nation.

The Manchin-Morrisey race is the most expensive to date in the state, with $50 million spent on advertising, some by out-of-state groups. Manchin said neither political party has pursued caps on campaign finance spending because both sides benefit from it. He said he would support such a measure.

Morrisey, who moved to West Virginia after losing a GOP Congressional primary in New Jersey, said he is a West Virginian by choice.

"This election is very much about who will stand for your West Virginia values and who's going to support President Trump, who's really working with me and many others to revitalize the state of West Virginia," he said. "There are big differences between myself and Manchin. On the issue of the Trump tax cuts, I said yes. Manchin said no.

"I'm going to stand strong on your second amendment rights," he said. "Unlike the dysfunction in D.C., we've gotten things done in the Attorney General's office."

Morrisey led a coalition of 27 states in 2016 in a fight on the Obama Administration's restrictions on carbon emissions. He also led a team of nine states to fight against clean water rules imposed by the EPA. Morrisey argued that the rules were unconstitutional and gave the federal government too much authority over drainage ditches under its definition of navigable waterways. 

He sued the national Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in July, claiming the government was not doing enough to prevent manufacturers and distributors from flooding the state with pills.

Morrisey said he wants stronger border controls and addressed the Kavanaugh hearings.

"All the obstruction, the resistance and the crazy you all witnessed with Judge Kavanaugh, Joe Manchin's first vote when they try to impeach our president, when they try to bring him down, Joe Manchin is part of that team.

"I'm going to stand with President Trump."

He said that he led the movement in West Virginia to create the first disability fraud unit, saving $13 million in fraud payments.

"West Virginia needs to change its tax code. It's antiquated," he added. "When we do that, we're going to give people the opportunity to invest back here in West Virginia."

Other speakers touched on key issues that the national candidates addressed. Rad what other candidates had to say here: