The Eastern Panhandle Business Association (EPBA) campaign forum today was highlighted by Senator Craig Blair threatening the firing of state teachers if they strike in the fall, Jefferson County Sheriff Pete Dougherty (D) going toe to toe with Republican Senator Patricia Rucker, and a majority of no shows (four of nine invited candidates showed, five did not.)
Blair went after the teachers for threatening safety strikes in the fall.
“Everything is working right in this state,” Blair told the luncheon gathering under an outdoor tent at the Purple Iris in Martinsburg. “And every time we seem to get up just a little bit, we endure a teachers’ strike where they walk out on the job. Thank God the people who are working at WalMart and our grocery stores are not deciding to walk out on their jobs during this crisis. You are the heroes that are out here, the ones that have gone to work and are muddling through and working through and trying to do their job in a safe fashion.”
“Our children deserve the flexibility also to be able to get a good education – no a great education – like our Constitution requires. And it can be done remotely.”
A question was raised about whether the legislature should call itself into a special session to challenge Governor Jim Justice’s spending authority over $1.25 billion in federal pandemic relief.
“Let’s say the teachers decide that they don’t want to go back into the classroom and they are going to go back on strike again,” Blair said. “And the legislature gets ready and calls itself back into session. And we’re going to deal with that issue because we’re going to fire everybody – we’ll just use that as an example – or furlough the ones that aren’t coming back to work.”
“Well, I can tell you right now, the minority party, the ones who have said that they are going to come back for a special session, will run like deer and antelope through that field. And you are still not going to be able to get yourself back into a special session.”
“We are in the middle of gaming season – election season. And if you want postcards out there that are full of mis-truths like you see on Facebook and all of the other social media places out here, well this is the best way to do it, the absolute best way to do it. Call ourselves back into a special session and watch what happens. It’s going to be a fiasco.”
“And the Democrat Party is going to start firing – or throw coal onto the fire or gas onto the fire,” Blair said. “Don’t accept it. We have been doing the right thing. And this is the right thing. The majority party in the Senate stands together in not calling ourselves back in – with the exception of one member. It’s the right thing to do.”
The EPBA invited all nine candidates in the State Senate races for Senate Districts 15 and 16 and House of Delegates Districts 58 and 59.
The two candidates for House of Delegates District 58 – Republican George Miller and Democrat Tom Harden – did not show.
Only one of the three candidates in House of Delegates District 59 showed – Mountain Party candidate Robert E. Smith. Smith’s opponents – Republican Ken Reed and Independent Patricia Adams – did not attend the forum.
Smith appeared to make a favorable impression on the mostly conservative business audience with his youthful poise and demeanor.
Blair’s opponent, Mountain Party candidate Donald Kinnie, also did not appear at the forum.
Dougherty against Rucker appears to be shaping up as perhaps the most hotly contested race in the Eastern Panhandle in November.
At the forum, Dougherty held his own against the incumbent Rucker, especially on the question of whether the legislature should call itself back into session to challenge Governor Justice on spending the pandemic billion.
While Rucker sided with Blair on not calling the legislature into a special session, Dougherty made a constitutional argument that the legislature holds the purse strings and ought to go back to Charleston to decide how to spend the $1.25 billion and not leave that decision to the Governor alone.