WHEELING - Candidates for West Virginia's open 1st Congressional District seat agree today's voters are angry with the state of the economy and also the dealings of the federal government.
Republican David B. McKinley of Wheeling suggested the 2010 mid-term elections are a referendum on both the actions of the Obama administration and a Democrat-led Congress.
Democrat Mike Oliverio of Morgantown said his own frustrations with Washington convinced him he should leave the West Virginia Senate after serving there 16 years and run for Congress, taking on - and defeating - a 28-year incumbent in the process.
Photos by Scott McCloskey
Democrat Mike Oliverio, left, and Republican David B. McKinley face off in a debate that drew more than 200 people to West Virginia Northern Community College in Wheeling on Wednesday. The candidates for West Virginia’s 1st District congressional seat sparred on a variety of issues.
Oliverio denied, however, that he would always follow the Democrats' lead at the U.S. Capitol.
Oliverio and McKinley participated in a candidate debate Wednesday at West Virginia Northern Community College in Wheeling, sponsored by The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register and West Virginia Northern.
"I am not going to Washington to get in step with the Washington leadership," Oliverio told a capacity crowd of more than 200 voters. "I have never once said I would support (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi. I'm going to Washington to get the national leadership in step with the people of West Virginia."
MORE COMING SUNDAY
A full transcript of Wednesday's 1st Congressional District debate between Democrat Mike Oliverio and Republican David McKinley will be available in the Oct. 24 Sunday News-Register. The debate also can be viewed, beginning Oct. 24, on West
Liberty Television, which can be found on Comcast channel 14 in Hancock, Brooke, Ohio and Marshall counties.
McKinley noted voters are sending a very clear message this election year.
"President Obama and Nancy Pelosi have our country headed down the wrong track," McKinley said. "Voters want this election to be a referendum on what's been happening in Washington.
"Despite massive government spending, unemployment has increased dramatically," McKinley continued. "The stimulus plan bailed out Wall Street and supported countries that created jobs offshore. The national debt is now at record levels, and federal spending is unsustainable."
He added that Obama and Pelosi are "continuing their relentless war on coal."
"People are scared," McKinley said. "They're scared of losing their job, of getting sick, of rising utility bills, of losing their retirement, for the future of their children. Enough is enough.
"Voters want to see Washington take a different direction - to restore the American dream and calm the fears of our nation," he added. "That's why I'm running for Congress. America deserves better."
Oliverio stressed he is not one who has always followed the dictates of his party while representing Monongalia County in the state Senate.
"My service in the Legislature has been marked by, more than anything else, being a strong, independent-minded person," he said. "I'm someone who has established a reputation for standing up for what I believe in - and after a lot of listening, standing up for what my constituents believe in. That's the reputation people have had of me as a legislator."
The race between Oliverio and McKinley has been combative, and both candidates at times Wednesday bristled at the other's remarks during the debate.
Oliverio referred to McKinley's wealth and his support for taxes benefiting business and opposition to inheritance taxes.
McKinley, meanwhile, knocked Oliverio for being a "career politician" - to which Oliverio replied that McKinley's name had been on a ballot 17 times in the past 30 years.
Negative attacks in the campaign have been prevalent, but both were able to offer something positive about the other near the end of the debate.
"I think David and his wife, Mary, have worked harder than anyone in West Virginia over the last several months," Oliverio said of McKinley. "I admire the effort they put forward, and the way they have offered themselves in public service to the people of West Virginia.
"We're proud of the campaign we've run," Oliverio added. "It's been bumpy at times. It's been hard. We've had to do some things maybe we didn't want to. But I salute them for the effort they put forward."
McKinley sees both he and Oliverio as family men.
"I hold anyone that served in the military in the highest standard," McKinley said of Oliverio. "My father flew in World War II. Mike's service in the Reserves - I think it's commendable.
"Also commendable is his commitment - we both share - to our families ... our children and seeing them grow up," McKinley continued. "I like it when he talks that way. It tells me there are other people who feel as passionately about their children and their futures."
He noted that he thinks Oliverio "does truly care about the state of West Virginia."
"We just approach things differently," McKinley said. "I have created jobs. He is trying to create jobs. He wants to do the right thing. I know he wants to do that for West Virginia. I know that is going to be productive for West Virginia."