Three other candidates for governor piled onto Patrick Morrisey, the incumbent attorney general, for his work history as a pharmaceutical lobbyist and his handling of West Virginia’s opioid lawsuit settlements.
In a Republican gubernatorial debate this week, candidates Moore Capito, Mac Warner and Chris Miller each leveled criticisms at Morrisey, who defended his record.
Morrisey’s supporters characterized the other candidates’ criticism of Morrisey as acknowledgement of his very competitive position in the race.
A major point of contention was Morrisey’s handling of West Virginia’s interests in lawsuits over opioid addiction, which has ravaged the state. West Virginia has led the nation in per capita drug overdose deaths.
West Virginia’s litigation in a range of lawsuits over opioid addiction is bringing in a total of $940,386,000, and the other Republican candidates for governor say it could have been more.
The other candidates also revived criticism over millions of dollars in attorneys fees following the opioid settlements.
“Quite frankly, he is probably the biggest name in the pharmaceutical drug lobbying D.C. sphere that exists,” said Capito, a Charleston lawyer who was chairman of the Judiciary committee in the state House of Delegates. “We know that to be the case. We saw a tragedy that happened in this state, and we’ve seen it over the past two decades.
“We had a chance for a once-in-a-lifetime settlement with the very people he used to work for. But instead of maximizing our return we left maybe a billion dollars on the table because Patrick made a sweetheart deal with the very people he used to represent. And that’s the part of the story that’s not being told.”
Morrisey, who has served three terms in office as attorney general, responded by saying that kind of talk is just what “these traditional politicians do. They’re devoid of facts, and they launch drive-by attacks,” he said.
Morrisey said his office actually negotiated very reasonable fees for outside counsel representing the state. And he characterized West Virginia’s proceeds from the opioid lawsuits as tops in the country on a per person average. His campaign provided a chart reflecting that assertion.
“When I was negotiating these, one of the key things that I did — I stuck to doing what was right. I didn’t listen to the political elites,” Morrisey said.
And then, referring to U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito — the mother of the gubernatorial candidate — Morrisey said, “Quite frankly Moore, I didn’t listen to your mom, who recommended that I settle on the cheap with the national settlements that would have resulted in half of the money that we brought in.”
At that point Miller jumped in and said, “You must not be from West Virginia — because people from West Virginia know you don’t talk about somebody’s momma.”
Warned aimed criticism at Morrisey too. His remarks began with the opioid issue, but continued into Morrisey’s refrain of being a proven conservative and then referred to Morrisey’s upbringing and early political history in New Jersey.
“Boy, when he gets started on deceiving West Virginians, it’s hard for him to stop isn’t it?” Warner said. “Patrick Morrisey has been deceiving West Virginians, talking about ‘he’s the only conservative,’ trying to claim he’s a West Virginian, raised in New Jersey and then comes here and has the audacity to think he’s the best person running for governor.”
Morrisey again objected.
“This is not a fact free zone,” he said. “Our record’s very strong. And now we can actually begin to put the resources to attack this drug problem from a supply, a demand and educational perspective. Just hearing the sound bytes, you want someone who has actually been in the arena, took on all those companies and won.”