Gainer looks to end D.C. dysfunction
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia state Auditor Glen Gainer is running for Congress because he wants to end the dysfunction and partisanship in Washington, he said Friday.
"The games need to stop and we need to start electing people who remember, one, where they're from, two, who they're representing and, three, really use some common sense to begin solving the problems facing America," Gainer said in a phone interview.
Gainer, who has long been rumored as a candidate, said he was spurred to run by the recent government shutdown.
He said that the biggest issue facing West Virginians is overregulation from the Environmental Protection Agency and that the biggest issue facing the United States is too much federal spending.
"It's time that we balance the budget," Gainer said. "We know it can be done. Bill Clinton balanced the budget when he was president of the United States. Somewhere from the time he left office to where we are today, we have done nothing but spend out of control."
Gainer said that the budget should not be balanced through cuts to Social Security and Medicare, which, along with defense spending, make up the bulk of federal spending.
"Every time we sit down and start talking about balancing the budget, we want to cut Social Security and Medicare," he said. "I will never, ever support anything that takes apart Social Security. Our seniors depend on it. First of all, they worked and paid into the system, they played by the rules. It's our job to make sure that benefit is there. And Republicans continuing to want to privatize it and reduce benefits is unacceptable."
Gainer announced Friday that he would run in West Virginia's 1st District, the northernmost. Assuming he is the Democratic candidate, he would face Republican Rep. David McKinley, who will be seeking a third term in 2014.
"I think folks understand how important coal is to our economy," Gainer said. "I will fight the members of the Democratic caucus tooth and nail on this issue."
Gainer said that even if he and McKinley share similar views on environmental regulations and federal spending, it's about being able to work together with the other party to get things done, something that McKinley has not done.
"It's about working together, reaching across the aisle, reaching across to the Senate, getting a budget passed that the president will sign," Gainer said. "They have a total inability and a lack of desire to do that, and that is the big difference between me and David McKinley."
McKinley's chief of staff, Mike Hamilton, emailed a statement in response to Gainer's announcement and said the congressman would not be available for comment.
"Electing another Democrat whose first vote will be to return Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker [of the House of Representatives] ensures that President Obama would control the House, the Senate and the White House," Hamilton wrote. "We need a fair, independent voice like David McKinley who isn't afraid to stand up to President Obama or his own party when it means doing what's right for West Virginia."
On Obama's signature domestic accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, Gainer said he didn't necessarily support it, but that repeated Republican efforts to repeal it were not productive.
"Had I been in Congress, to be quite honest, I may not have and probably would not have voted for the Affordable Care Act," Gainer said. "At the end of the day, the Supreme Court has already said the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, we know the president will override, using his veto, anything to take the Affordable Care Act away. Instead of voting 40 times and wasting taxpayers' money and voting 40 times to just repeal something, we should have been working on legislation to fix it."
Gainer, a Parkersburg native, was first elected auditor in 1992. He succeeded his father, who had been auditor since 1977. The auditor is the state's bookkeeper, accountant and chief financial inspector.
Gainer said that some of the changes he's made as auditor -- instituting electronic paychecks and purchasing cards -- have saved the millions of dollars and are the type of "common-sense solutions" he would look for as a congressman.
Visa, a financial services company, ran an online campaign promoting the purchasing card program. Gainer and other state officials appeared in online videos for the campaign last summer, which the state Ethics Commission later ruled was inappropriate. Gainer settled a complaint about the videos in June, by donating $1,000 to Charleston Area Medical Center.
Reach David Gutman at email@example.com or 304-348-5119.