UPDATED – Candidate Profiles: U.S. Senate Primary Candidates Speak on Issues
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A few weeks ago West Virginia Watchdog sent each candidate running in the Aug. 28 primary for U.S. Senate a questionnaire by email. The questionnaire focused on four key policy areas: health care reform, Afghanistan, the economy, and environment/coal.
Eight out of 14 candidates responded, including Democrat Sheirl Fletcher and Republicans Mac Warner, Harry C. Bruner, Jr., Frank Kubic, Daniel Rebich, Albert Howard, Lynette McQuain, and Scott Williams. Gov Joe Manchin and Ken Hechler, both Democrats, did not respond. Republicans John Raese, Lynette McQuain, and Thomas Ressler also did not respond.
Other than editing for grammar and spelling, plus removing all links back to candidate website, we have left the answers unharmed.
UPDATE: Mountain Party candidate Jesse Johnson has finally submitted his answers. They are included below:
Dan Rebich: I do not support the bill and believe it should be repealed and replaced. I believe in open competition across state lines, tort reform, and allowing individuals and small business to pool together to reduce cost.
Scott Williams: I do not support this legislation. It was not passed with bipartisan support. It was not read by those that voted for it. It mandates that by 2014 every American will be required to purchase health insurance through government controlled insurance groups. It looks as if HSA’s will be eliminated even while they are the fastest growing type of coverage in the country when they are paired with high deductible plans.
Health care needs to be reformed and improved but it cannot be made affordable to all Americans in the sense all Americans would like. In order for it to be possible for it to be affordable to all Americans the economy needs to recover to the point where we have a significant budget surplus. That is unlikely to occur as our current congress is unable to keep their hands out of the cookie jar. To assume we can spend another $2.7 trillion over the next 10 years when we are already unable to pay our current obligations is simply ridiculous. It would be better for competition if health insurance carriers could compete across state lines for business. This would increase competition which would lower insurance premiums.
Kenneth Culp: I oppose mandatory health care. The government has no right to tell people they must purchase health care insurance. I can guarantee you that the cost will greatly exceed all estimates. When you offer a product at a below market price, you increase demand. Look at Medicare. When it was passed in 1965 President Johnson stated that by the year 2000 it would only cost $10 billion per year. By 1990 the cost was already $200 billion and now it is over $800 billion. This will be the greatest redistribution of wealth this country has ever seen.
I believe we must begin health care reform a step at a time. We certainly need to address the costs caused by litigation and we need to open up competition for insurance across all 50 states. I have proposed a voluntary program where there will be say, 10 to 20 standardized insurance policies that are simple to understand, cover all unknown pre-existing conditions and cannot be canceled except for non-payment. Additional coverage could be purchased if desired. All policies would include a deductible as a percentage of the total cost of the medical service. This would provide an incentive for the users to shop around for the best price.
All insurance companies would be allowed to bid on these policies if they chose. This system could also be used to replace Medicare and Medicaid. The insurance companies could bid on the policies and the government would know exactly what the costs would be up front each year. Health care providers would not be required to provide service to anyone who did not have insurance or the ability to pay. Exceptions could be made for emergencies.
Harry Bruner, Jr.: I will vote to repeal Obama healthcare. It is bad for your health and America’s financial solvency. As usual, Congress did not read this 3,000-page bill. There will be tens of thousands of pages of arcane new regulations. If you think our health care system is broken and drugs are expensive, wait until they are free from the government under Obamacare. Many of the problems we face in health care reflect the way we think about our own health. We need to change voluntarily our philosophy of health care. The Greeks believed it is every citizen’s daily responsibility to work hard to develop a sound mind in a sound body. John Stuart Mill, an English philosopher wrote, “Each person is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily or mental and spiritual.” No government can take care of your health and pay for it. Any group health plan must have these core principles as the foundation. There must be an incentive and penalty system based upon practicing good health rules and preventive medicine. There can be no reward for “diseases of our choice” such as overeating, obesity, poor diet, tobacco, alcohol, drug abuse, engaging in risky lifestyles and irresponsible, reckless conduct. The good health and dietary rules are known. For those choosing to abuse their health, they should bear some or all of the increased costs of their care.
Mac Warner: I do not support this bill as it was passed. The very means by which it passed was highly irregular, and brings into question the contents’ validity when it took so much backroom manipulation (“Cornhusker Kickback,” “Louisiana Purchase,” etc.) to get it passed. We need to repeal and replace the Health Care Bill immediately.
The proper alternative to government-run health care is to enact serious reforms in current tax and insurance law that would expand personal ownership and control of health insurance, and transfer the control of health care dollars to individuals and families. We should not insert government between patients and their doctors. Appropriate reforms would move today’s bureaucracy-driven, heavily regulated third-party payment system to a new patient-centered system of consumer choice and real free-market competition.
Sheirl Fletcher: Health care reform is needed in this country. Too many Americans are without a basic level of health care, and the rising high cost of health care is said by many economists to be a major cause of our struggling economy. But I too am concerned about the price of the implementation of the Obama health care bill, the constitutionality of requiring insurance, and the impacts upon small businesses in particular.
But I am not in support of a repeal of the law at this time. Any new law, the size of the Health Care Act, will certainly have provisions that will require improvement. I agree with the U.S. Chamber’s position that we need to take a wait and see approach until promulgation of the rules. Once the rules are finalized I will work with the Chamber of Commerce, Hospital and Medical Associations, small businesses and families to identify provisions of the health care bill that are problems, and I will act in a bi-partisan manner with my Senate colleagues to address them.
Jesse Johnson: This “deal,” like Vice President Cheney’s energy deal, was cut behind closed doors. This provides undo influence by the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries. This as we all know, has created an unparalleled mandate for all citizens to purchase a product from private industry. We can and will provide a form of single payer that covers all and pay for it. I will show the public how. This requires no new taxes.
Rebich: We need to win in Afghanistan. We can’t leave the Afghan people stranded again like we did in the 80s. Get rid of the Karzai “cartel” and support a government that the people of Afghanistan can trust and that is not corrupt. Increase pay to Afghan military and police forces and find a way to instill pride and honor in their service to their country.
Williams: This war is not going away in the short term unless America bails out. Clearly the enemy is well funded and most importantly, they are willing to die for what they believe. The primary need is for President Obama to commit to a plan for victory. The biggest problem with the White House policy is the July 2011 exit date. Obama doesn’t have a victory plan, he has an exit strategy. Any victory plan, however, needs to include our allies. The money funding the enemy is coming from somewhere and our allies need to help find it and cut off that flow. Our allies also need to help with the cost and the manpower. With General Petraeus now in charge, the White House needs to give him the time and the resources to carry out a plan for victory. Some of those resources need to come from our allies. Any timelines established should be determined by what is happening on the ground and not on what is best for a particular political party.
Culp: Having served in the military during the Vietnam war, I know that you cannot win a war unless you are determined to win it. If we are going to engage in any conflict we must go in with the attitude that we are going to win. We cannot jeopardize the lives of our sons and daughters by being politically correct. We should never give the enemy hope that we are going to give up, especially by announcing a withdrawal date.
Bruner: The questions presume the Iraq War is won. One of my Army infantry officer sons is serving in Iraq now. That is still a very hot war zone and U.S. soldiers are being wounded and killed there. My other son appears to be headed for Afghanistan next year so my comments will cover both wars. President Obama’s shallow experience as a “community organizer” and a few 18-hour quickie tours to both war fronts do not qualify him to be a six-star general on war tactics and strategy. He was horribly indecisive for months before rejecting his Afghanistan theater commander’s recommendations on the troop strength needed to win that war. The U.S. military has troops in over 150 countries, so it is spread too thin. By reducing troops in all these foreign countries, the recommended troop levels could have been achieved. Technology gives an advantage in war, but it’s the boots on the ground that kill the remaining enemy, seize and hold territory for the final victory. The military’s purpose is to kill enemies of the U.S. – not to nation build and be social workers. Our soldiers cannot kill enemies with restrictive rules of engagement giving our enemy the advantage to ambush, plant IEDs, and kill our soldiers before they can fire. I will support our troops & will not second-guess theatre commanders in Iran and Afghanistan on waging war. As Senator, I will not take a quickie 18 tour of these war zones and promote myself to a 6 star arm chair general.
Our politicians have not followed the Constitution on declaring these wars and funding them. There should be no wars unless Congress declares them like WWI & II using U.S. Constitution. Article I, Section 8. Congress should provide pay-as-you-go funding without borrowing and deficit spending to fund these wars. In 2003, the U.S. declared victory in Iraq. We should have left then, and no later than after the first Iraq election. The U.S. should declare victory in Afghanistan and leave the nation building to the inhabitants of Iraq and Afghanistan. Congress and the President have ignored the rule of our nation’s Founding Fathers. They believed America should be the friend of every nation, but the master and ally of none. The Founding Fathers were against a Pax Americana foreign policy of the U.S attempting to enforce its will and government on other nations.
Warner: Iraq and Afghanistan are the front lines in today’s War on Terror. The US did not choose this fight, Islamic terrorists did. It began long before September 11, 2001. In fact, the ideology was brought to the fore early this century, and substantial action on that ideology was taken in 1979 with the Shiite takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran and US hostages held for 444 days. Here’s the bottom line: the War on Terror is one that must be fought — and won! In fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US has turned the tables on the jihadists. It is better to fight a war (on offense) on foreign turf than it is to fight a defensive battle and have to defend every inch of US soil. All of this ties into and has direct relevance to the national security of the U.S. and our allies. It is why we need to secure our borders, enforce immigration laws, and take strong action against nuclear proliferation.
The main initiative we need to take is to define our missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The President’s declaration to begin withdrawing troops in 18 months from Afghanistan was absurd — and it puts the lives of US soldiers at risk. Instead of cooperating with US forces, Afghanis realize their fate at 18 months will be “dealing with the Taliban.” Either the War on Terror is one the people of the United States agree needs to be fought, or it’s not. If it is, define the mission, let the military determine the best location and means to fight that war, and then let them fight to win. Do not place artificial timelines, restrictive rules of engagement, and or funding impediments in their way.
To walk away from the war against Islamist terrorism would embolden the enemy, and significantly increase the terrorist threat to the West itself. (See the growth of Islamic fundamentalism and increase in terrorist strikes following the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan, the departure of the US from Lebanon after the Beirut bombing, after Somalia, the USS Cole, Khobar Towers, Kenya and Tanzania Embassy bombings, 9-11, and so on).
Finally, we need to play to our strengths: maximize our superior technology and firepower. Rather than continuing to expose US ground forces to daily attack, we should increase our use of drones, intercepts, cruise missiles, satellite technology, and HUMINT (human intelligence). We also need to adjust our rules of engagement to fit the threat, our timeline, and the mission. When al-Qaeda or Taliban forces raise their heads or threaten stability, we should strike with lethal force while minimizing collateral damage. Yet, when enemy forces purposely use civilians and protected places (such as mosques) for protection, we should stop apologizing for collateral damage — people on both sides know the tactics used against US Forces are against the Law of Land Warfare.
Albert Howard: America is there because of the drug supply. Only to protect and profit from the vast resources of illegal trading at the expense of U.S. troops.
Fletcher: I believe it’s extremely important to win the war in Afghanistan. General Petraeus must be given the resources and the time to achieve the U.S. objectives in Afghanistan. A free Iraq government took longer than expected but now shows great promise of stability. The United States must give the Afghanistan government the same opportunity.
Johnson: Yes, both parties have made many mistakes with regards to foreign policy decisions for nearly 100 years. Our missteps that begat this crisis in Afghanistan began no later than July 3, 1979, When President Jimmy Carter signed the first directive to provide secret aid to the Mujahideen. This was in fact the birth of what has come to be known as Al Qaeda in Kabul in Operation Cyclone. This was with full knowledge that it would induce the Soviet invasion. We have never experienced “victory” there, nor has any invading force for thousands of years. Just as no “invading” force will take our nation away from us. Western Intel actively recruited Islamic militant extremist.
We need to withdraw our forces and face facts. We are not at war there (Congress did not declare war) and should never have deployed troops there. 9-11 needs as it always should have been a thorough investigation as the crime of the century which it was. Not an act of war which it was not. Otherwise time may well show that too many died in vain.
The tale of the natural resource and drug trade socialization of debt has never been brought to light. The real mechanism is however by U.S. Marine Corps’ Major General Smedley D. Butler in his classic “War is a Racket.”
Rebich: Small business is the engine of our economy. Small business needs customers, not tax incentives, in order to hire employees. Employers don’t hire people if they don’t have work for them. The politicians would understand this if they ever tried to operate a business, hired an employee, filed W-2′s, 941′s, quarterly reports, maintained workers comp and unemployment accounts, insurance, etc. Reduce taxes, loosen regulations, and get these banks that received TARP money lending again to credit worthy business and individuals.
Williams: Consumer and business spending is necessary for our economy to grow. Federal spending is not necessary for our economy to grow. Raising taxes reduces the amount of money people and businesses have to spend. Therefore, two things need to happen. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 need to be extended or made permanent. This will provide more money for people and businesses to spend. The second thing is to reduce federal spending. Discretionary spending must be lowered. If these two things do not happen we will end up with a national debt that will double over the next decade. If that happens, our economy will collapse. Health care will not be an issue at that point.
Culp: The government does not create jobs – businesses create jobs. The stimulus bill was nothing but pork for the Democrats. The President claims that it “saved or created” 3 million jobs. That’s a number that cannot be proven. However, even if it is true, that means that it cost the taxpayer $260,000 per job!
Businesses will not hire when they don’t know what their costs are going to be. With mandatory health care, cap and trade and financial reform, they don’t know what these are going to cost their companies. I would oppose/repeal these bills. I would then offer small businesses a tax credit of 5 percent of total payroll as a reward for them hiring people. Second, I would lower the corporate income tax rate to where it is competitive with other countries. This would encourage businesses to bring jobs back to the United States.
Third, I would implement a fairer income tax system. Currently, 50 percent of households pay no federal income taxes while 10 percent of the households pay over 70 percent of the Federal income taxes. The minimum tax rate should be 5 percent and the top tax rate should be 25 percent and this would be assessed on income with no exclusions or deductions. I would tax 50 percent of capital gains and dividends at the taxpayer’s normal tax rate. This means that all taxpayers would pay half their normal tax rate on these items.
Bruner: Cut personal & business taxes 10 percent yearly for six years. Cut government spending dollar for dollar. Extend the Bush tax cuts. Stop borrowing and start repaying debt to restore confidence in the dollar and U.S. economy. Stop Keynesian stimulus boondoggles and start relying upon free market capitalism principles of Adam Smith & Milton Friedman for job creation. Many politicians are economically illiterate. Most have never held real jobs for any length of time in the private sector. It’s easier to be a career politician at the public trough than earn a living in an increasingly competitive environment where you have to work extremely hard to produce tangible results decade after decade, or you are unemployed or out of business. Ask any WV business owner: Would he hire an employee having a politician’s work ethic and honesty?
Warner: Government spending and commitments to future spending have reached levels that will be catastrophic if we do not take action. We need to stop any more advances towards TARP, Stimulus Funding, and Bailouts. We cannot dismantle our entitlement programs, nor should we break the promises made that people grew to count on for their retirement. But we can face the fact that current policies are bankrupting future generations, and we must reform programs that cannot be sustained in their present form. Americans are the most charitable people in the world. We can help our fellow citizens far more efficiently by making the best use of our private resources and minimizing government programs, which waste huge amounts of money, invite corruption, and usually fail to meet their goals.
To counter the current assaults on private property, to fix our irrational tax system, and to reduce the red tape that hampers our most productive citizens, America needs –
- strong spokesmen to explain to the American people the virtues of entrepreneurship and free market principles;
- a low, fair, simple federal tax system that taxes only once;
- a reduction of the red tape that discourages risk taking and obstructs the freedom and flexibility of American workers;
- a legal environment in which every person’s property is secure;
- government policies that control inflation.
Fletcher: Stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit by reducing uncertainty in the market. Reduce uncertainty by:
- Extending the Bush tax cuts for a definite period of time. To allow the tax cuts to expire at this time would be the equivalent of a tax increase and would further damage an already fragile economy;
- Lowering the corporate income tax giving American businesses a level playing field in order to be competitive in the world market;
- Producing a fair and predictable regulatory atmosphere.
- Allowing the private market system to compete with as little government intervention as possible.
Johnson: This would require a recovery with jobs. One where large businesses invest in their national best interest (long term) rather than their own (short term.) As I have proffered for a decade. The answer to what ails America lays in what has long ailed WV. Our nation, like our state, is now owned by absentee landlords. This in the form of debt. Due to the prevailing effect of Gresham’s Dynamic in our markets and industries, they are now off the reservation as they say. Our economy is in freefall. Our recovery is fanciful at best. And we find ourselves giving bonuses to the robber-barons and banksters that got us in this mess to begin with.
We all must invest in our recovery to actually have one. We must return to our roots and replant them. We can and must innovate and diversify or collapse. Here in WV we have great opportunity but no political will or strength. We can invigorate industry, create jobs, live in pristine environments and communities that are the envy of the world, as soon as we stop burning our coal and Start the manufacturing business based on carbon from coal as I have described for years.
Rebich: The EPA has overstepped its bounds when it comes to regulating CO2 emissions. They should answer to Congress, not the President. I love our mountains, so I am against MTR. But we need these jobs. I believe wind farms may be an alternative. Instead of buying wind turbines from China, why can’t we build them here in West Virginia?
Williams: Clearly, the validity of the science behind global warming has come into question of late. That said, it is naïve to think that the fuels consumed by our nation have no impact on the environment. Energy conservation needs to be practiced by everyone. Conservation should reduce or at least level off our energy demand. To lessen the impact on the environment, tax incentives should be provided to companies to improve the cleanliness of burning coal. However, these tax incentives should be greater for those companies who locate in coal producing states.
Unfortunately the EPA appears at the moment to be a political tool rather than an agency charged with helping industry comply with clean air and water regulations. By regulations I assume you mean the Spruce 1 mine permitting issue. If they start an approval process under one set of regulations, they need to complete that approval process under those same regulations. It is not fair to change the rules in the middle of the process. The EPA should have the authority to regulate contaminates but also the ability to assist industry in compliance. Currently the atmosphere is adversarial at best. Are there better ways than mountain top removal? From the coal company standpoint no. I don’t believe those who oppose it are interested in another way to remove it. They appear to not want it mined at all. This is a classic case of jobs versus the environment. It is an issue that rarely results in all parties being satisfied.
Culp: Government is not the solution – Government is the problem. I would push for states to regulate mining operations. Mountain top removal is a states rights issue and should be decided by each state. I admit that valley fills are an issue but I can’t believe that this problem couldn’t be addressed by having the coal operators excavate and re-create these areas. The government bureaucrats are gaining too much power in this country. The EPA is in the process of declaring greenhouse gasses a health problem. Once they do, they will have the right to institute Cap and Trade without Congress’ approval!!!
While everyone acknowledges that we need to move away from carbon based fuels there are few viable alternatives. As a gap fuel we should be looking at natural gas. It costs less than gasoline and pollutes less than coal. We now have abundant supplies and this is a fuel that could actually reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
Bruner: The coal industry is one of our most heavily regulated industries. Washington overreacts by acting first and thinking second. It’s important to document why existing environmental and safety laws are ineffective or unenforced. Senators appear ignorant about the WV coal, oil and gas industry, its history and importance to the WV economy, and other energy issues.
I will protect all WV industry from nutty politicians. I will protect our WV coal industry from the Obama, Reid and Pelosi agenda to tax and regulate it out of existence. The extractive industries are under severe attack by pandering politicians hawking their nutty “cap and trade” plans. The other industrial countries have rejected such schemes. If passed, cap and trade will drastically increase WV’s energy costs and kill our economy. I opposed all “cap & trade” bills before it was popular to do so, even when some WV unions were supporting John Kerry and his cap and trade ideas on the State Capitol grounds near the Governor’s Mansion. Gov. Manchin was supporting cap and trade at that time. I understand the coal industry and its importance to WV and the world. Career politicians Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Kerry, Manchin, Heckler, Kennedy, Jr. and their ilk do not. The average West Virginia worker has more real work experience and common sense than this bunch of Democratic nincompoops combined. Never forget – if Manchin is elected, he will vote for Harry Reid as Majority Leader.
Warner: We need to balance “People, Planet and Profit.” The good Lord put abundant resources on this earth for man to use, but He also directed that man be good stewards in man’s dominion and control. We need to dig coal properly, and reclaim the land when the coal is removed.
Yes, the EPA has gone too far. Their stance that CO2 is a pollutant defies common sense. The assertion that Global Warming is man-made is based on unproven science, yet the EPA has flexed its muscle using such scare-tactics to gain power and control. Government is to insure there is a level playing field for private industry, not to pick and choose the winners using false data and assertions.
The very name, “mountaintop removal” is used to inflame passions, and generate emotions against a legitimate form of mining. Bench cuts, contour mining, and similar methods prove to be economically feasible means at getting at coal so as to keep costs down. Everyone benefits from lower utility bills, keeping lights on, a high quality of life, and having a dependable, affordable, flexible energy source such as coal.
A number of places around WV have enjoyed economic vitality as a result of using areas flattened by coal mining. Mylan Park in Morgantown is one such example, while the shopping mall in Clarksburg is another. Automatic requirements to restore land to natural contours ought to be reconsidered, especially when local communities join together to seek alternative uses for the mining sites. Certainly, coal operators have made vast improvements to their methods of removing, and means of restoring the land over the last 30 – 40 years. The solution to our energy needs is to push for all forms of energy production, all the while using technology and common sense to continually improve the restoration of land after minerals have been extracted.
Fletcher: Our nation has been dependent upon foreign oil for too long. Energy independence is crucial to our economy and our national security and West Virginia coal will play a major role. But we must mine coal in a way that is both safe and with minimal impacts upon the environment- and I know we can.
As a geologist and environmental specialist with more than 30 years of experience in the energy sector, I will bring a level of expertise to the Senate to address these important issues with authority.
If elected I will promote a balanced national energy policy that includes oil and gas, coal and coal-based technologies, and renewable energy. I will request a seat on the Energy and Natural Resource Committee to fight for West Virginia’s coal industry and coal mining jobs.
I oppose Cap and Trade. It is nothing more than a tax on the energy sector and if passed, it will result in the loss of thousands of WV mining jobs. In addition, Cap and Trade will further weaken the U.S. economy by giving unfair trade advantages to non-participating developing countries like China and India.
I will continue to promote clean coal technology and seek continued funding of the research efforts of DOE’s National Energy Technology Lab and WVU’s National Research Center for Coal and Energy. I will support tax incentives to the coal industry for research and development of clean coal and coal-to-liquid technologies which would increase the number of coal mining and coal-related jobs in the state.
I will work with our federal regulatory agencies including EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to develop fair and predictable but effective environmental regulations and permitting requirements.
I have many friends in both the coal and environmental communities and each serve an important role in our state. I love the natural beauty of West Virginia and I will fight for every West Virginia job… As your Senator I will strive to find that balance.
Johnson: [We balance our need of coal with our responsibilities to the environment] by enforcing the regulations that have been in place for decades yet ignored by the energy sector and big industry. The EPA has not done its job anymore than the WV DEP. There would be no EPA question if the state followed federal law as well as its own. This is like the cap and trade question.. The answer is not enough cap.
Yes, there are much better ways than MTR, almost every way imaginable would be better. The vast majority of exaggerations in this debate are proffered by the Coal Associations and the Mine Owners and their related industries. Not so called, environmentalists.
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Tags: Afghanistan, Coal, Economy, Environment, Health Care Reform, Health Care Reform, Health insurance, Insurance, Law, Mining, Senate, special election, U.S. Senate, United States, West Virginia