At gubernatorial debate, no good options presented

If last Thursday’s MetroNews gubernatorial debate is anything to go by, Republican primary voters have no good options.

None of the three participating candidates stood out as an overall good choice.

On economic policy, Chris Miller proclaimed income taxes need to be cut further and faster: “Get rid of it day one,” he said. Obviously, government doesn’t work that way. A governor can’t walk in on the first day of office and re-write the state’s entire tax structure.

We hope he’s just using this as a campaign slogan, but we’re afraid he actually means it. And even if it is just rhetoric for the campaign trail, it’s still bad policy. The income tax provides about half the general revenue budget. Businesses, employers and employees are attracted to areas not only with low taxes, but with good infrastructure and social services, which, of course, are taxpayer-funded.

Moore Capito made it sound like he’s single-handedly responsible for the current income tax cut. “As the get-it-done conservative in this race, I’m the only one who has actually cut taxes for hard-working West Virginians and given them their money back,” he said.

That might come back to bite him in a couple years when tax revenues are down and West Virginia’s already chronically underfunded services and agencies — education, infrastructure, fire and EMS — have been starved into extinction.

This was Mac Warner’s one shining moment in the debate: “[W]e talk about these surpluses that West Virginia is now enjoying. Those surpluses aren’t going to be there for long. … I’m afraid of what the current governor is leaving the next governor. So I want to be cautious about cutting taxes too fast.”

He was the only candidate at that debate to acknowledge that Justice’s much-touted surpluses aren’t actually surplus — it’s money that should have been spent on essential services and the fact that it hasn’t been has created a huge recruitment and retention problem. 

Warner then ruined his moment by promptly putting on his tinfoil hat, claiming the CIA stole the 2020 election from Donald Trump and rolling out a variety of other conspiracy theories. Frankly, neither Miller nor Capito had good answers to this question either, but Warner’s response was truly a freefall down the rabbit hole into Q-Anonland.

It’s been three years since the 2020 election and dozens of court cases found no evidence that the election was “stolen” in anyway. In fact, the only evidence of malfeasance and interference has been on the part of Republicans, including but not limited to: casting multiple votes, attempting to tamper with voting machines, signing fake documents proclaiming Trump the winner and slandering innocent individuals and companies. So can we please stop with the “stolen election” rubbish?

About the only thing all the candidates said that we remotely agree with is that Attorney General Patrick Morrisey sold out West Virginia when he settled opioid lawsuits for far less than he should have. Morrisey, of course, objected to such criticisms in a separate interview.

Morrisey, the final Republican candidate for governor, didn’t deign to attend the debate last week. It doesn’t reflect well on a candidate when he’s unwilling to engage with policy questions or speak extemporaneously on topics related to the office he’s seeking.

Based on this debate, there are one or two good ideas, a lot of bad ideas and an excessive amount of culture war rhetoric. None of these candidates have offered a fully workable plan for their potential governorship. Republican primary voters should demand better.

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