CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin made his case for re-election to a full four-year term during interviews with Gazette editors Monday, while Republican challenger Bill Maloney and Mountain Party candidate Jesse Johnson said it is time for a change in state government.
Tomblin, elected last October to complete the unexpired term of former Gov. Joe Manchin, said that thanks to stability in state government, high bond ratings and no tax increases, the state is increasingly attractive to business investors both foreign and domestic.
Citing the new Macy's distribution plant near Martinsburg, Tomblin noted, "They could have located anywhere in the country. They looked at 158 sites, and they chose West Virginia."
Maloney, however, said declines in manufacturing and coalmining jobs show the state is headed in the wrong direction.
"Things are not good. People are figuring out Republicans have good ideas," said Maloney, a Morgantown businessman who lost a close race to Tomblin in the 2011 special election.
Johnson, a frequent Mountain Party candidate, described himself as the progressive alternative in a race where the two major party candidates differ little on key issues.
The topics of discussion Monday ranged from Marcellus Shale legislation and global warming to the statewide public education audit.
Tomblin said the recommendations of an audit of the state's public education system by Public Works LLC would be part of the legislative agenda for the 2013 regular session.
He said he has not seen anything in the report that he could not support as governor.
"Our system ties the hands of people at the classroom level," he said, adding, "The emphasis should be on getting more of the control to the local level.
Maloney's assessment: "Way too much bureaucracy. Putting dollars in the classroom. Rewarding good teachers. It's pretty simple stuff."
Johnson agreed that bureaucracy in the Department of Education takes away from quality of education in the classroom, adding, "I agree teachers need raises across the board."
Tomblin and Maloney agreed that legislation passed in special session last December to regulate Marcellus Shale drilling is significant.
"Is it a perfect bill? No, but I think it offers our environment protection," said Tomblin. "Prior to that, we had no rules."
"Now, everybody knows the rules -- that was a big problem," said Maloney, adding, "The fact we have certainty is a good thing."