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Union groups want their own debate with Cole and Justice

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Labor groups want to make sure their issues are covered before the November General Election so they’ve invited gubernatorial nominees Jim Justice and Bill Cole to a debate scheduled for next month in Charleston.

The official invites went sent out last Friday from the United Workers of America and the West Virginia State Building and Construction Trades Council, UMWA spokesman Phil Smith told MetroNews.

“West Virginia has always been a blue collar state and it’s going to continue to be that way and we feel it’s important for the folks that do the jobs in West Virginia, that make the state go, to have a voice in this,” Smith said.

The Democratic nominee Justice and the Republican nominee Cole have already agreed to two debates in October, both in Charleston. An Oct. 4 debate will be hosted by the West Virginia Press Association and AARP. A debate on Oct. 11 by the West Virginia Broadcasters Association.

The unions aren’t sure their issues will be covered in those debates, Smith said.

“We don’t disrespect people in the media who are going to be asking questions but they’re not necessarily going to be asking questions that our members feel are important,” he said.

The UMWA has already endorsed Justice and Cole isn’t interested in a debate where the union has a part in it, Cole campaign spokesman Kent Gates told MetroNews in a statement released Monday afternoon.

“We are happy to debate Jim Justice and the other candidates in any debate that is organized by a neutral organization that has not already endorsed a candidate. For example, the Roane County Chamber of Commerce is having a forum tomorrow evening where they invited both Bill Cole and Jim Justice. Bill Cole is attending, but Jim Justice declined,” Gates said.

As state Senate president, Cole lead efforts in the legislature to pass bills eliminating the prevailing wage and making West Virginia a right to work state. Bills union members traveled to Charleston and protested against.

The Justice campaign is reviewing the request.

Smith said those issues are important to labor but they want to ask the candidates specific questions.

“How are you going to create jobs? What are you going to do for the people who don’t have a job now? How are you going to put people back to work? Those are important issues and questions for the gubernatorial candidates that I think people want to hear their answers to,” Smith said.

The unions have not invited third party candidates. The dates offered Justice and Cole are Sept. 27 or 29.

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