Randy Yohe Published

W.Va. Republican Gubernatorial Debate Finds Differences And Agreements

A picture of voting booth tables with a display of the American flag.Adobe Stock

Three of the four leading Republican candidates for governor discussed their views on taxes, economic development, leadership and more Thursday evening. 

The hour-long debate on WV MetroNews featured Secretary of State Mac Warner, Huntington businessman Chris Miller and Del. Moore Capito (R-Kanawha). Attorney General Patrick Morrisey declined the debate invitation, instead counter programming his own issue statements solo on a different news outlet.  

Springboarding on what they think should come next after Gov. Jim Justice’s 21.25 percent personal income tax cut, Miller said West Virginia should quickly join the states prospering with zero personal income tax. 

”If we’re going to grow West Virginia’s economy, and we are going to grow West Virginia’s population to save the financial catastrophe that’s coming, we have to accelerate the zero income tax. And we have to do it right now,” Miller said.

Warner said future tax cuts should be made cautiously, fearing surpluses won’t be around forever.  

“I like the legislature getting in there as a regulator to make sure it doesn’t happen too fast,” Warner said. “We have problems with teacher retention, we have problems with corrections retention, the medical examiner, all first responders, volunteer fire departments. We don’t have a surplus, we should be spending that money and making sure those people are brought up to speed.”

Capito said the state should stay the course it’s on regarding accelerated tax reduction.

“We’ve put in place a predictable tax reduction plan that can be accelerated if the economy continues to grow the way that it does,” Capito said. ”If we continue the pro-growth strategy that we’ve put in place, and that I’ve helped to get done alongside Gov. Justice, folks in the legislature will continue to see that growth.”

On the roads issue, Justice’s “Roads to Prosperity” program allowed the state to take on $1.6 billion in debt with a major bond issue. The candidates were asked if they would propose another road bond or if they had other ideas on how to fix West Virginia’s roads?

Warner said before any new spending, the state needs to hear from the people well-versed in road maintenance issues.

“I’m going to bring in the experts that know the subject matter,” Warner said. “Whether it’s teachers, whether it’s the Department of Highways, whether it’s corrections, and we’re going to fix the solution by working with the experts. Let’s listen to the people on the ground.” 

Capito said the state needs to use innovation and technology to repair roads.

“I had a bill this year, and I was very proud to pass the first one in the country, that uses LIDAR and satellite imagery, and AI and predictive analysis so that we can fix our roads before they crumble.” Capito said. “And here’s why it’s important. It saves the taxpayers money.”

Miller said he would not call for new bonds and that road maintenance should come from general revenue. 

“The Department of Highways is already bonded to the gizzards,” Miller said. “The only way we’re going to fund new roads is through general revenue. We’re only going to be able to complete about three quarters of the road bonds project because of the time that we passed with changing inflation, changing interest rates and changing costs of labor.” 

All three candidates agreed that transgender students should only be allowed to participate in sports that align with the gender they were assigned at birth.

All three candidates also said they would forsake the current Justice Administration online press briefings with limited media questions for in-person press conferences where reporters can ask follow up questions.