CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- During a frequently contentious meeting with Gazette editors Thursday, Republican attorney general candidate Patrick Morrisey questioned the competency of West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw to hold office, while McGraw dismissed Morrisey as a mouthpiece for corporate interests that want to roll back consumer protection efforts in the state.
At one point, Morrisey presented a letter formally requesting a public debate, a letter that McGraw pushed back to him without reading.
"It is not appropriate for the attorney general of West Virginia to debate whether or not we ought to follow the law," McGraw said. "I am really not interested in giving a forum to those who oppose consumer protection in West Virginia."
The Democratic incumbent said Morrisey, who until earlier this year had been a Washington, D.C., lawyer and lobbyist, is backed by corporate interests, including tobacco and pharmaceutical companies, that would prefer the Attorney General's Office be less aggressive on consumer protection measures.
"They lost in court, now they show up in politics," McGraw said. "You can do a lot of things in politics you couldn't do otherwise."
Morrisey countered that McGraw, a five-term attorney general, is not competent to continue to hold the office.
"As this campaign goes on, I've become convinced the judgment of Darrell McGraw is impaired," Morrisey said, citing an incident in Milton when McGraw grabbed a video camera away from a Morrisey campaign "tracker."
Morrisey accused McGraw of electioneering at taxpayer expense, citing appearances of McGraw aides at campaign events, as well as an election-year spike in consumer protection ads featuring McGraw airing on radio stations statewide.
If elected, Morrisey said, he will advocate for a state law prohibiting state officials from appearing in public service ads prior to elections, and said he will set an example for other officeholders.
"You will not see my name on any trinket," he said.