The third and final candidates forum was held last Tuesday evening at the Greenbrier Valley Theatre in downtown Lewisburg, this time, for the West Virginia State Senate 10th District race. The three events were sponsored by the Greater Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce.
Seated before an audience of around 45 people, were Republican Kenny Mann from the small town of Ballard in Monroe County, who faced off with Democrat incumbent Dave Perry, who hales from Oak Hill. Mike Kidd served as moderator in the question and answer format. Attendees submitted questions in advance.
Both candidates decried the tiresomeness of the gridlock in the senate and the fact that since the state is in the hole financially, the Legislature is left with either raising taxes or making cuts to education and social programs. Both candidates agreed the options are narrow, but where and how are differences that came forward during the Q & A. With no “over-night industry” in sight to replace coal, whichever one who steps into the fray will be hard pressed not to prioritize and make cuts as needed.
The first question addressed the prescription drug crisis and its effects on children and families. Mann spoke to the effects of addiction, which prevents people from moving on with their lives, once they become felons. “People are hurting,” he said, across the board, and not just those on drugs.
Perry advocated a second chance for felons, and wants to add a five-cent charge to prescription drug purchases to bring in needed funding for the crisis resolution.
“The right to work means the right to work for less,” said Perry, who wants to bring back the prevailing wage law. Mann’s position was a 180 degree reversal to Perry’s position, stating taxpayers cannot afford the prevailing wage in a lot of areas.
The two agreed on importance of tourism to the economy, but that it nevertheless would not be the saving grace for the state’s economic problems. Diversification they agreed is overdue as the means to replace coal as the driver of the state’s economy.
Forced pooling brought out clear demarcations of the candidates different views: Perry said flatly, “Forced pooling is wrong. Fracking is wrong. There is such a thing as landowners’ rights.”
Mann, on the other hand, said, “The approach is everything. If a person doesn’t want his land fracked, but his neighbors do, he would lose out on the financial gain his neighbors are getting,” he said, “if not for forced pooling. Forced pooling allows everyone to benefit.”
They also differed on Common Core state standards. Perry urged to leave it in place and Mann said it has failed, benefiting the school more and the student less.
Cuts to non-profit programs? Perry refused to advocate cutting any funds and Mann, though he said he hates the word “cut,” bottom line, he said, “We have no money, so we have to adjust and prioritize.”
As to whether or not to fund social programs, without which children and families are at risk, again Perry was blunt. “We cannot cut our way to prosperity. To invest in children is not wrong,” he said.
Mann reacted similarly, stating, “We can’t tax our way out either.”
Perry had the most to say about what was the biggest problem in the county with his assertion that, “It’s a total mistake to privatize the O-School for the economy in Greenbrier County and for rural health care in West Virginia.” He also mentioned the Greenbrier River Trail and its value to the tourism dollar.
In closing, Mann emphasized that his focus is on changing the divisiveness of the senate. He said, “Quit pointing fingers, and fix it!”