DANIELS, WV (LOOTPRESS) – The Raleigh County Republican Executive Committee held the first event for their newly launched Mountain State Candidate series Tuesday evening which featured an appearance and remarks from gubernatorial candidate Chris Miller.
The event took place at The Resort at Glade Springs in Daniels, and also served to congratulate the winners in the recent General Election, of which for the first time in nearly a century Raleigh County elected exclusively Republicans to the state legislature.
Such winners included Todd Kirby of District 44, Bob McComas who won the race for Raleigh County Circuit Clerk, Incumbent Chistopher Toney of District 43, and Eric Brooks of District 45.
Brooks was not present for the event itself on this evening, however, as he was unable to attend, as was Delegate and Committee Treasurer Brandon Steele and recently re-elected District 9 Senator Rollan Roberts.
Names in attendance did include committee members Daniel Hall, Christopher Toney, Nancy Harris, Theresa Dennison, Key Tener, Sayer Dennison, Secretary Amy Osgood, Committee Co-Chair and Raleigh County Commissioner Greg Duckworth, and Committee Chair Julie Kominsky, among others.
“It is the Committee’s desire to provide a forum where mountain state candidates present their platform to us and allow a question and answer session,” said Kominsky of the event, the meetings for which will be open to the general public.
“This series will feature gubernatorial, senatorial and other candidates who are running for office in the 2024 election. It is our hope that this forum will be an intimate, interactive and informative tool for the constituents of Raleigh County.”
Newly elected Raleigh County Circuit Clerk Bob McComas made some brief remarks extending gratitude to the committee for their support before leading those in attendance in prayer, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Shortly after, gubernatorial candidate Chris Miller took to the podium to address the crowd and committee, giving his thoughts on the State of West Virginia and what could be done going forward to improve things across the board.
“The federal government has let us down, but the good news is we don’t need them,” proclaimed Miller during his opening remarks.
“We don’t need them at all,” he reiterated. “We have everything that we need to be successful right here in this state,” alluding to pools of resources within the Mountain State waiting to be utilized in the growth and expansion of the state.
Miller pivots at this point, however, preferring to hold off on policy talk briefly to explain his own motivations in seeking a leadership position in state politics.
“I don’t need a job,” he says frankly. “I’ve got a bunch of businesses that I run, I’m 43 years old, I’ve got three kids – a 15 year old son, a 13 year old son, and a 9 year old little girl – and that is a full time job.”
“I work a lot, I’m not scared of hard work,” he says, illustrating the point with an anecdote of his father advising him to get a job to generate the funds needed for a pair of Air Jordan sneakers, at which point he got a paper route and has “been working ever since.”
Miller then goes on to discuss issues within West Virginia as a whole.
“If you look at our state, we have a series of fundamental problems, and the problems are pseudo-complex to where it’s going to take a really interesting thought process to fix them.”
“Because of the expansion of the Affordable Care Act and the pressure that put on Medicaid and Medicare expansion – in particular for rural states – our DHHR’s budget is going to continue to balloon over the next 8 – 12 years until it puts our state in a tailspin and affects our bond rates,” he explains. “We will not be able to recover from that, economically speaking, if we do not get out ahead of it right now and fix the problem.”
The answer, explains Miller, lies in population expansion throughout the state. Population growth has been a prominent issue for the area with many recent large-scale decisions having been made in the interest of promoting such growth, including current Governor Jim Justice’s unveiling of plans to renovate the Beckley and Bluefield travel plazas on Friday.
“The real solution to the problem is that we need to be able to add between 200,000 and 300,000 people to our state over the next 10 years,” says Miller
“Right now our state government is 38% of our economy; we will not be able to afford that.”
He goes on to point out a number of fundamental financial problems on the state level – though less pressing, Miller says, than state economic policy – including bonds with regard to the Department of Highways, the cost of labor and inflation, and PEIA.
“PEIA is a real serious problem,” Miller asserts. “It is going to cost the taxpayers an additional $40 million a year starting now out of general revenue just to keep it funded.”
“So there’s a series of problems, and what we have to do is we have to outgrow those problems. The good news is things are lining up perfectly for us to be able to accomplish that.”
Miller also emphasized the issue of funding for teachers and schools, indicating that the funding itself is being soaked up by the counties and boards before it has a chance to be utilized by the teachers and classrooms.
During the event’s second half Miller interacted with those in attendance, fielding questions from everyone from members of the public to public officials.
Individuals in the latter category who queried Miller included Todd Kirby and Bob McComas, the latter of whom questioned Miller directly on his stance with regard to the legalization of marijuana, positing succinctly
“State government – it needs trimmed. What [are] your views on the super sector and what [are] your views on legalizing marijuana?”
“I always come from the aspect of freedom,” the response began. “I think that freedom is imperative, I think that freedom addresses everything, and I don’t think it’s my place to tell somebody what they can or can’t do with their own body as long as it’s not harming somebody else.”
“The job of the government is to prevent people from harming other people, and so I’m all for [the legalization of marijuana,]” Miller declared. “I’m a Libertarian by every sense of the definition, and I don’t think that the government should be involved in the regulation of something like that. That’s the state’s job to control it and provide the right supply for distribution and to make sure that the taxation is there. I don’t see a problem with it.”
This, unsurprisingly, raised questions regarding Miller’s stance on abortion, which he said was altered dramatically when he was shown a documentary by his mother, United States Congresswoman Carol Miller.
“Being a Libertarian, I’ve always had an issue with the government telling you what you can and can’t do with your own body,” he began. “Then my mom had me sit down and watch this documentary called ‘Silent Screams,’ [which shows] an inside view of what happens in a woman’s womb during an abortion. They show it to you at 6 weeks; at 8 weeks; at 16 weeks; and at 32 weeks… and that changed me.”
Regarding the highly polarizing issue of Amendments 1 through 4 in the lead-up to the General Election earlier this month, Miller pointed to a lack of sufficient explanation on the part of leadership as a primary reason for the failure of the proposed changes.
“It was very, very convoluted,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of effective explanation on the ‘yes’ vote side. They didn’t do a good enough job of showing how that was going to impact people’s lives and what that was going to do for county funding.”
“The senate had a plan to help backfill a lot of the budgets from these counties and how they were doing it. But it’s complicated to explain, and also you have to rely on the Legislature to make sure that gets done and there is some distrust on that end.”
Miller was also questioned by Commissioner Duckworth on what the first three things he would do as Governor would be, to which he gave four answers.
“I think you would start with economic policy,” he began, addressing an issue which had served as a staple of his comments up to this point. “You also have to start with work on the Clean Water Act and how that is going to be affecting West Virginians.
Water was also a topic of interest during Tuesday’s evening’s assembly, as Miller propounded the potential benefits of leveraging the resource which is plentiful throughout the state, particularly by comparison to areas further West in the country such as Arizona and California which are frequently impacted by drought conditions.
Miller further stated the importance of addressing work and pay conditions of teachers throughout the state, along with the state of the foster care system in West Virginia.
“I was talking to a lady earlier today about the number of children in foster care and it is huge. These are all children, they’re our next generation that will make a difference in our state and they don’t have the appropriate solid family environment to be able to do that, and that really needs to be looked at.”
Other issues discussed on what proved to be a densely informative evening included the opioid epidemic in the state, the pay and working conditions of law enforcement – particularly corrections officers – and state infrastructure.
The event was brought to a conclusion with Raleigh County Commissioner Duckworth jestfully motioning to adjourn, with a playful seconding of the motion offered from fellow committee members. The event was followed by a reception next door at the Glade Grill Center Bar.
Additional LOOTPRESS coverage for Raleigh County can be found here.