HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A few fireworks went off between three Democratic candidates for the 3rd Congressional District seat during a debate Thursday at Marshall University.
The candidates — state Senator Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, Tri-State Transit Authority General Manager and CEO Paul Davis and health care professional Janice Hagerman — spoke in front of an audience at the Shawkey Dining Room. The West Virginia Young Democrats hosted the event.
Delegate Shirley Love, D-Fayette, was unable to attend because of a family obligation.
Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates the district as “likely Republican;” U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins is running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate and the opportunity to challenge Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in the general election.
Ojeda, whose popularity has skyrocketed this year because of his activism during the state teachers’ strike, portrayed himself as a fighter for the working class.
“I think it’s important for us to support our working-class citizens, to support our sick, to support our veterans, to support our elderly, and we must create opportunities for those who live in poverty that elevate themselves out of poverty,” he said.
Davis said he participates in public service and local organizations in order to improve his community, and he would like to carry that mission into serving in Congress.
“I’ve served you guys almost at the expense a lot of the time of my family,” he said. “Little League Baseball, band program at Huntington High School. I’ve always given back, and I will serve you and give back.”
Hagerman started the debate with an opening statement aimed at drug companies, medical professionals and state agencies who she said left West Virginia in “an abyss of drug addiction.”
“I come to Marshall University to ask the people of the 3rd District of West Virginia to join me in a battle. Upon this battle depends the very survival of the Christian Appalachian people,” she said. “On the outcome of this battle depends our way of life, our culture, the lives of our family and our friends.”
Ojeda said he has been able to make connections with current lawmakers, name-dropping Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., about utilizing Appalachia for technology jobs.
“We have a low cost of living and we know that. If you don’t believe me, go to California and look how much it costs to buy a house,” he said. “We also have an amazing workforce. You know, we are educating students in places like these that are waiting to take over in technology jobs, and we have them.”
Davis pointed to diversifying the economy and expanding the energy sector, as well as educational opportunities through community and technical colleges as his main economic points. He said West Virginia’s reliance on the coal industry led to its current condition.
“We put all our eggs in one basket, and what’s happening now is that with the new EPA regulations and so and so forth, we’ve seen a mass exodus of jobs in the coal industry,” he said. “We can still use coal if we put the right people together and lock them in a room — scientists, coal business owners and everyday people. We can figure out how to use coal today in a very efficient way.”
Hagerman rebuffed Davis’ argument by saying based on current West Virginia industries and family history, the economy is already diverse.
“My family has been in coal. We’ve owned coal mines. We’ve worked in coal mines. We’ve owned timber industries. We’ve worked in the timber industry,” she said. “Steel, health care, the Chemical Valley in Cabell, Kanawha, Putnam and Wayne counties. We have a diverse economy, but we don’t have people training for this.”
Hagerman later went after medicial marijuana, which will become legal in West Virginia next year.
“We don’t need people out there smoking pot. We don’t need the pharmacy companies that are already corrupt to grow another field in the back of our yards to produce pot for everybody to smoke,” she said, adding the state needed to go “cold turkey” and push for rehabilitation centers.
Ojeda was the dominant force in getting the medicinal marijuana law passed during the 2017 session of the West Virginia Legislature.
“We need to give people a non-addictive capability for their pain management. You know, nobody has ever, every overdosed on marijuana. It’s never happened,” he said.
“I’m ready to go to Washington, D.C. and pick a fight with (U.S. Attorney General) Jeff Sessions,” he added. Sessions, an opponent of marijuana use, ended a policy earlier this year that kept federal authorities from going after states where recreational marijuana is legal.
The omnibus spending bill that Congress passed last week includes an amendment prohibiting the Department of Justice from pursuing states that have legalized or are considering legalizing medical marijuana.
The West Virginia Young Democrats will hold a debate for the party’s 2nd Congressional District candidates on April 15 at Shepherd University’s Reynolds Hall.
Early voting in this year’s primary goes from April 25 to May 5. The primary election will be held May 8.
LIVE: 3rd Congressional District Democratic Primary Debate
Posted by West Virginia Young Democrats on Thursday, March 29, 2018