CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Republican Bill Maloney are poised for a rematch after last year's close special gubernatorial election. But each must first face an opponent he bested in last year's special primary.
Republican Ralph William Clark and Democrat Arne Moltis argue they would do a better job than their better-known rivals. But both face uphill battles. Maloney and Tomblin have vastly outraised their primary opponents and locked up endorsements as they gear up for a fall matchup.
Clark, 68, is a philosophy professor at West Virginia University. Like Maloney, Clark criticizes the state's judicial system, tax code and regulatory rules as obstacles to economic growth. Clark also favors right to work, a policy that bars mandatory union membership at workplaces with collective bargaining agreements.
"My approach is to have the best possible message, a message that none of the others running has put forward," said Clark. "West Virginia has numerous natural advantages. ... My message is that West Virginia needs to do everything right to compete with other states."
Clark said that while Maloney has some good ideas, he and the other candidates "don't go far enough."
"With my background in philosophy, I look at both sides of every question," Clark said. He also said of his view, "good government is government for everyone and plays no favorites."
Clark attracted less than 2 percent of the vote in last year's GOP primary, which featured seven other candidates including Maloney. A Supreme Court ruling required a special election for the unexpired term left when then-Gov. Joe Manchin joined the U.S. Senate after his 2010 special election win.
Moltis, 61, received 481 votes in a six-way Democratic primary last year that saw several top officeholders campaigning to succeed Manchin. The South Charleston landlord now finds himself the only challenger to Tomblin, who was acting as governor during last year's race. Tomblin had been the state Senate president, an office designated by the West Virginia Constitution as next in line behind the governor.
Moltis said his goals include improving the quality of meat served at schools. Moltis said he opposes adding an ammonia-treated filler commonly known as "pink slime" to beef. Federal regulators say the filler, known in the industry as "lean, finely textured beef," meets food safety standards. But critics say the product could be unsafe and is an unappetizing example of industrialized food production.
"It's really worse than dog food," Moltis said. "I have a teaching degree, so I do care about the children."
Moltis said his top issue is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Drillers pump high volumes of water mixed with chemicals and sand down wells to break up rock deep underground to release ancient deposits of natural gas. In West Virginia, the process is frequently employed in the state's share of the Marcellus shale reserve.
Concerns over hydraulic fracturing range from local streams sucked dry to supply fracking fluid to drinking water sources polluted by fluid seeping out of gas wells. Moltis believes fracking poisons water wells.
"He's for fracking," Moltis said of Tomblin. "He promises to frack every place he can get his hands on, and poison the water and put the farmers out of work. I'm the opposite of that."