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Tomblin, Maloney Square Off in W.V. Governor's Race

5:50 PM, Oct 3, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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Of course, Maloney has had ample political hurdles of his own. His ubiquitous “Democrats for Maloney” signs reflect the fact that a large majority of voters in West Virginia are registered Democrats. George W. Bush won here in both 2000 and 2004, and in 2008 John McCain won the state by an even larger margin than Bush ever did. “West Virginians are conservative folks by nature,” says Maloney. “We think very conservatively, we think like Republicans.”

But West Virginia is still dominated by the Democratic party. Only two Republicans have been elected governor since the Great Depression. Democrats have had a majority in the state house of delegates since 1930 and in the state senate since 1932. The legacy of the New Deal looms large. “I’m a ‘D’,” says Tony Albiani, an 81-year-old retiree in Clarksburg. “When you open the mailbox and see that Social Security check, remember who got that for you. That was FDR.”

So how does a Republican businessman make his case? Maloney’s message is that business as usual has left the state behind. West Virginia has a relatively high poverty rate and an average household income of just over $37,000, and unemployment has ticked up over the last year. Maloney says the combination of an inconsistent tax code and an anti-business court system means domestic businesses can’t grow and out-of-state companies are afraid to locate here. “We don’t have one company headquartered in West Virginia on the New York Stock Exchange,” he says. 

And Tomblin, Maloney argues, wants government to solve the problem. He cited the moment where, two days before Obama’s speech to Congress last month, Tomblin said in a debate that he hoped the president’s forthcoming job plan would have stimulus money for West Virginia. 

“So that’s the contrast: I’m going to fight Obama and his EPA,” Maloney says. “Earl Ray’s not going to do it. He likes stimulus money. He likes more government.” 

But don’t West Virginians like Tony Albiani also like more government? Maloney admits it’s taken longer for his fellow citizens to get the message. “It’s like we missed the Reagan Revolution here,” he says, shaking his head slightly. “But it’s changing. People get it.” 

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