West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, is seeking election to a full four-year term as governor. Republican Bill Maloney is working to ensure that doesn't happen.
In a rematch of last year's special election, which Tomblin won by a scant 8,000 votes, the two men have been traveling across the state to spread their message.
Among other issues, they disagree on the current state of West Virginia's economy.
- Maloney, 54, is a resident of Morgantown who grew up in New York. He is a graduate of Lehigh University with a degree in industrial engineering.
He co-founded and served as an executive at North American Drillers, North American Pump and Supply Co. and Shaft Drillers International. Today, he is owner and principal of Cow Run Energy LLC and Drill Leader LLC.
"West Virginia's finances and economic standing are deteriorating rapidly right now," Maloney said. "We are currently not on sound financial footing. Earlier this year, my opponent signed the largest budget in state history. My opponent never properly planned for leaner years and simply grows the size of government in his six-year plan. With current and looming budget shortfalls in coal severance, gambling and the expansion in Medicaid as a result of Obamacare, it is imperative that we grow the private sector. (My opponent's) inability to control government spending in his 37 years as a career politician has saddled taxpayers with billions of dollars of debt and hindered economic growth.
"West Virginia's unemployment rate is 7.5 percent. We've had five straight months of rising unemployment. We've lost 3,000 coal mining jobs this year. When I'm elected governor, I'll get West Virginia on the right track for future economic growth."
One of the main differences between the two candidates is their background. Maloney has pointed out this year that his business background has been about creating private-sector jobs; Tomblin, in contrast, has spent 37 years in government, he notes.
Maloney also is "extremely unhappy" with how the current administration is addressing West Virginia's natural gas boom.
"In 2009, my opponent sponsored and passed a West Virginia cap and trade bill that caps the amount of natural gas that can be applied toward meeting the alternative and renewable energy standard," he said. "Also, Earl Ray Tomblin failed to get a cracker plant in West Virginia. In 2012 he passed a cracker tax credit bill and made it his administration's top priority to get Shell to locate their cracker plant in West Virginia's Northern Panhandle.
"Earlier this year, Shell decided to locate the cracker plant in Pennsylvania, costing our state's Northern Panhandle thousands of high quality, good-paying jobs. We have also seen many companies - including Chesapeake and Baker Hughes - move operations that were in West Virginia to Ohio. Because of the poor economic climate in West Virginia, too much investment and too many jobs are going to our neighboring states."
His plan to turn the state around includes fixing the "regressive tax structure, broken court system, roll back overly burdensome business regulations and create a business friendly climate in our state."
"These reforms will make our state attractive to manufacturers who want to take advantage of our natural gas boom."
- Tomblin, 60, of Chapmanville, W.Va. in Logan County, served nearly 17 years as president of the West Virginia Senate - the longest of any Senate president. He became acting governor when Joe Manchin was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, and he was elected governor in a special election in October 2011.
He was first elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in May 1974, the same week he graduated from West Virginia University. He moved on to the state Senate in 1980.
He and his wife, Joanne, have been married for 32 years and have one son, Brent.
"I'm pleased to say that West Virginia's finances are in much better shape than most other states around the country," he said. "We have balanced budgets and generated surpluses, while not increasing taxes for 17 years - and in fact eliminating the food tax, and responsibly reducing taxes for job creators.
"Our Rainy Day Fund is the third best in the country, with more than $800 million set aside for future needs. We also have seen our credit rating improve to AA-plus, the highest it has been in decades. And with wide bipartisan support we addressed our (other post-employment benefits) problem this year, putting in place a plan to pay off long-term pension liabilities - again without increasing taxes."
He noted that during a special legislative session called in late 2011, West Virginia became the first state in the Appalachian Basin to put rules in place to provide regulatory certainty for companies that want to develop the Marcellus Shale, while also protecting the state's residents and environment.
"This new law passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, and it has led to increased economic activity in our state," Tomblin said. "I expect to see continued job growth due to shale development, and I created a task force to encourage the use of compressed natural gas vehicles. That will not only help create jobs, it will save the state money on fuel costs and help make the country energy independent."
He acknowledged that although West Virginia unemployment rate is below the national average, more jobs need to be created.
"I know from talking to business leaders that the actions we have taken - dramatically reducing our workers' compensation rates, cutting business taxes, and improving our infrastructure - makes us more attractive to companies looking to locate and expand businesses," Tomblin said.
"We also are focused on improving our work force through training programs and education reforms that focus on student achievement. As other states are forced to raise taxes to pay off loans from the federal government and pay off their OPEB debts, West Virginia will become even more attractive and I'm confident we will see additional economic development throughout the state."