MORGANTOWN, WV (LOOTPRESS) – Three candidates vying for the Republican nomination for governor of West Virginia in 2024 faced off in a debate covering an array of issues Thursday evening.
The debate, hosted by West Virginia MetroNews and moderated by Talkline host Hoppy Kercheval, kicked off at 7 PM in Morgantown.
GOP candidates participating in Thursday night’s debate included Delegate Moore Capito, businessman Chris Miller, and Secretary of State Mac Warner.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is also vying for the Republican nomination, decided to skip Thursday’s debate. Morrisey has previously stated he did not intend to debate until after the filing date on January 27, 2024.
Candidates were asked multiple questions regarding topics such as taxes, education, infrastructure, and the opioid epidemic.
State Income Tax:
All candidates agreed with cutting the state income tax in West Virginia. Chris Miller stated that he would send a bill to the legislature on day one of his administration to get rid of the income tax completely.
Sec. Mac Warner and Del. Moore Capito suggested a different approach.
Warner said that he would take a more “adult approach” and would not support a complete elimination all at once. Warner stated that with federal COVID dollars running out, the continual budget surpluses in the Mountain State will soon end.
Warner said that he supports the phasing-out approach currently in effect.
Capito also supports the phasing-out approach instead of a complete elimination at once. Capito says such action would result in the raising of the sales tax and blow a hole in the state’s budget.
Miller disagrees with their notions, stating that eliminating the income tax, would grow West Virginia’s population which would in turn increase the tax base and bring in more revenue.
On the issue of allowing foreign workers to work in the state because of the low workforce participation rate in West Virginia, the candidates stated that work needs to be done to encourage residents to enter the workforce.
Warner said that the state should encourage those who have served in the military to stay or move back to West Virginia, such as proposing tax breaks, and free in-state college tuition. Warner stated that he has no problem with legal immigrants working in the state.
Capito agreed with Warner’s suggestions and stated that the state needs to focus on workforce development.
Miller says he wants to promote and market the state to recruit workers while eliminating the income tax and ending regulation.
Education has been a hot topic issue in West Virginia, and each candidate was pressed on whether they would support more raises for educators.
Capito recognized that the state’s education system needs a boost. He said he has been working with other educational leaders to come up with solutions. He stated that he will also focus on empowering parents and ensuring that teachers are compensated as well as ensuring accountability in the classroom.
Warner believes that a pay raise would help, but that it is not the solution. He stated that schools now have a discipline problem. He said that teachers need the ability to remove misbehaving students from the classroom.
Miller, whose wife was an educator, stated that he supports a pay raise for educators in order to make the state more competitive in the field. He said that restructuring the education system, such as cutting the “bureaucracy”, would free up more funding for schools.
In a yes or no question, candidates were asked if they would live in the Governor’s Mansion in Charleston and put their assets in a blind trust.
Miller: 1. Yes 2. No
Warner: 1. Yes 2. Stated that he had no assets to put in a blind trust.
Capito: 1. Yes 2. Yes
The candidates were also asked if they would endorse former President Donald Trump for president in 2024.
Miller stated that he endorses Trump, saying that Russia would not be in Ukraine nor would China be emboldened if Trump were president.
Warner said he did not endorse Trump as he is the chief election officer for the state, but stated he will support the Republican nominee for president in 2024.
Capito also stated that he endorsed Trump for president in 2024. He said that Trump loves West Virginia and believes that the state, due to its energy resources, will thrive economically under a second Trump administration.
Candidates were also asked if they thought the 2020 presidential election was rigged.
Warner stated that he believes that the 2020 election was stolen by the CIA and covered up by the FBI.
Capito said he could only speak for West Virginia, stating that Trump fairly won West Virginia by 40 points.
Miller stated that it was possible as he spoke on the uncertainty of mail-in ballots.
Second Road Bond:
Following the successful passage of a road bond early in Governor Justice’s administration, candidates were asked if a second bond would be needed in their administration.
Capito stated that a lot of work is currently being done because of the last bond, and believes that the current should be allowed to be completed before the proposal of another.
Miller said there should not be another bond, and that the state should grow the economy, population, and tax base to create additional funds for roads.
Warner believes that the cost of another bond would be handed down to future generations and did not voice his support for a second bond due to the potential cost. He said he would work with experts on creating solutions for fixing roads.
Candidates were asked if they had personally been affected by those addicted to opioids.
Warner stated that multiple employees in the secretary of state’s office had been closely connected to people who have suffered and died due to addiction. Warner believes that sanctions on China and securing the southern border would help the crisis along with educating residents on the harms of fentanyl.
Capito said that the epidemic is tragic and that anyone trafficking fentanyl should be put in prison for life.
Miller stated that he was once struggling with addiction himself. He believes that families need to be kept together. Miller also stated that the state needs to work on rehab. Miller agreed with Capito’s suggestion for putting dealers in prison for life.
Miller said that the issue is a threat to national security, and a border wall would help fix the crisis.
All candidates stated that they support the current abortion law in West Virginia.
Miller stated that he does not hate anyone, loves everyone, and that he has friends who are gay. He said he opposes men playing in women’s sports due to biological differences.
Warner said he hates the sin, but loves the sinner. He believes that the nuclear family should be protected and that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Capito stated that he is against sex changes for children, and was proud to support a bill banning them. He also believes that men should not participate in women’s sports.
All candidates stated that they believed WVU President Gordon Gee made the right decision when resizing.
Supporting The GOP Nominee For Governor:
All candidates were asked a yes or no question on if they would support the GOP nominee for governor regardless of who it was.
At the conclusion of the debate, all three candidates verbally agreed to participate in more debates.