Ashton Marra Published

Two of Four Governor Candidates Attend Forum, Sponsor Pushes Back

Former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, left, and Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, right.

Two of the four candidates running for Governor participated in a forum hosted by the statewide community action group Create West Virginia in Charleston Tuesday. 

The forum allowed candidates to give extended presentations about themselves and their campaigns followed by answering questions from five moderators from across the state and from the audience.

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler and former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin—both Democrats—were the only two candidates to accept invitations to the forum. Democratic businessman Jim Justice and Republican Senator Bill Cole declined the invitation.

On their website, Create West Virginia posted critical comments about the two candidates who did not participate saying:

One may draw the conclusion that these candidates don't consider Create West Virginia's gubernatorial forum, and multiple others they've declined, as important enough to attend…but we're not taking it personally. We've been told that the strategy for the two front runners is to avoid situations that may give voters a reason NOT to vote for them. The fact that a candidate can win by avoiding meaningful conversations that reveal who they really are, what they really know about modern economic development, and what their real plans are to move us toward an Innovation Economy is deeply troubling. We're counting on our people to prove those strategists wrong.

In a written response to the claim, Cole’s campaign said:

Bill Cole is the only candidate to have already campaigned in all 55 counties. He will participate in debates and forums after the primary once  a Democratic nominee is determined. Only then can there be a clear discussion of the issues and competing visions to get West Virginia moving again.

A spokesman for Jim Justice’s campaign responded:

"Jim has participated in several candidate forums across the state so far and is looking forward to the April 16 statewide debate hosted by the Democratic Party."

That forum will feature the three Democratic candidates for the office before the May 10 primary.