Ashton Marra Published

3rd Congressional District Candidates Square Off in Debate


The two candidates for West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District squared off in their only scheduled debate Tuesday evening in Huntington. The event was sponsored by the Huntington Herald-Dispatch.

Republican state Senator Evan Jenkins came out swinging, immediately attacking Democratic Congressman Nick Rahall in his opening remarks for his party connections, calling him a “foot solider” for President Obama and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

Those attacks continued throughout the evening, but weren’t without rebuttal from the Congressman, who called Jenkins- a former Rahall campaign supporter a “Johnny come lately” on coal and permitting issues with the Environmental Protection Agencey.

“Has he been at the pro-coal rallies, the anti-E.P.A. rallies that I’ve been at, testifying before the E.P.A. against their efforts to revoke a previously granted permit in southern West Virginia?” he said.

Coal was the major talking point of the night. Jenkins attacked Rahall for his previous voting record, including a vote in favor of a Progressive budget that he says included a carbon tax. Rahall refutes its inclusion in the bill at the time he voted for it. 

Rahall said its time for the state to start focusing on diversifying not just its economy and for the nation to put in place an energy policy that contains many forms of energy production, as long as they are all domestic.

On healthcare and the Affordable Care Act, Jenkins continued to link Rahall to Obama and Pelosi, but avoided saying if the bill should be repealed and replaced or just adjusted. 

Rahall defended his vote for the ACA saying at the time, insurance companies were taking advantage of consumers by drastically increasing premiums without checks and said the bill put in place some good measures. He cited coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and being able to stay on a parent’s health insurance plan until 26 as two of those improvements.

Both candidates looked weak when it came to education issues and avoided any substantive answer on what should be done to take on problems with student loan debt.