UPDATE 6/8/11 @ 10:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) is touting his 30-plus years in state government as key to tackling the state’s many challenges.
He made the comments Wednesday during his first sit-down interview since securing his party’s nomination in the special election for governor.
Tomblin is facing off against Republican businessman Bill Maloney.
Maloney sat down with WSAZ.com about three weeks ago to discuss the race.
During the interview, Tomblin talked with us about some of the key issues that have developed so far in the race and the issues making news in the state in recent weeks.
His primary win was decisive, but now Tomblin finds himself in an interesting position.
He ran on a platform of more jobs and lower taxes, but so did Maloney.
"We do have ourselves on a plan, and we're the ones that are getting it done right," Tomblin says.
A recent survey by Public Policy Polling shows Tomblin has a 15-point lead on Maloney, but his approval rating has slipped following attacks during the primary.
"Approval ratings go up and down depending on what the issue is, but I feel very comfortable about the race as we move into the general election season," Tomblin says.
For the last couple years, West Virginia’s unemployment rate has bounced around but remains high. So far this year, it appears to be following a similar pattern to last year. This year, unemployment peaked at 10.3 percent in January and fell to 8.8 percent in April.
WSAZ.com asked Tomblin, "Can you point to any job creation measures that you've taken that have resulted in jobs being created since you became governor?”
Tomblin responded, "The lowering of the corporate net income taxes, we plan to reduce that. It makes us more competitive with the other states."
One major policy area being questioned is mine safety.
The state's independent report on the Upper Big Branch disaster recently released concluded, "State mine inspectors face an additional obstacle, which can be described simply as the politics of the state of West Virginia."
Tomblin disagrees with the notion that politics is getting in the way of mine safety.
"We intend to look at all the UBB reports when they come in. If there are specific recommendations, I guarantee you that I'll be the first to propose that we do whatever they recommend to make sure mining is safe in the state of West Virginia," Tomblin says.
The state began an education audit at the start of the month to "look at where we are spending our money, from experts out there to see if we can spend our money in some other way in education to make sure that our student outcome is better than what it is today."
The state is spending about $750,000 on the audit, which will be conducted by an outside agency.
When asked why he didn’t order the audit be done in-house, Tomblin said, “Considering the amount of money, the hundreds of millions of dollars that we spend in education currently -- $750,000 -- even though it sounds like a lot of money, could save our education system tremendously in our state."
Given all the issues the state faces, Maloney says it's time for a new approach. But after more than 30 years in government, Tomblin is making the case for consistency.
"We're going to show that experience does count, that we do have this state moving in the right direction," Tomblin says.
Tomblin also told WSAZ.com legislators could be coming back to Charleston in early August for a special session. He says the plan is not finalized, but lawmakers could be dealing then with both the redistricting issue and Marcellus Shale regulations.
According to Public Policy Polling, Tomblin starts with a 15-point advantage over Maloney.
The first poll released since the primary election Saturday has Tomblin capturing 45 percent of the vote, to Maloney's 30 percent. The poll was conducted a couple days before the primary vote.
Maloney was in Charleston Monday, meeting with Republican supporters. He sat down with WSAZ.com for his first interview since Saturday’s win to talk about the state of the race and the attention it’s receiving from beyond West Virginia.
Maloney points out that he was able to surge ahead several points on the GOP ticket before the primary, and believes he can do it again in the general election.
For Maloney, political analysts say a big a part of his campaign is still simply trying to build his name recognition among voters. Though he won by a comfortable margin in the primary race, only about 16 percent of voters turned out.
Now that it’s clear who is in the race, the dynamics have changed.
"Oh, a little bit. We only have one person to worry about. But, the message isn't going to change. I mean, it's staying the same. I'm not here because I need a job. I'm here to help the state," Maloney says.
Without mentioning Maloney by name Saturday, Tomblin alluded to how he thinks this race will unfold.
He told supporters, "And we must be united as Democrats because the alternative is just too much of a risk for the state of West Virginia."
Maloney responds, "Well, I think I bring a lot of fresh energy and fresh ideas. And, I can look at things a little differently than career politicians can."
As a longtime businessman in the drilling industry, Maloney points out he knows firsthand how the state can help and hurt job growth.
"We won't have any headquartered companies here on the New York Stock Exchange. There's a reason for that. It's our court system, our tax system and our bureaucracies," Maloney says.
Recently, the publication "Chief Executive" ranked West Virginia number 42 on the list of states to do business. The ranking is based on a survey of more than 500 CEOs who looked at things like taxation and regulation.
Maloney says he knows the state will get a lot of attention during the next few months.
As one of the few states conducting a gubernatorial race, people are looking to West Virginia for signs of what could happen nationally in 2012.
"October 4th, we'll be the only race between now and then. And, there's already a lot of attention here. And, nationally you just see a lot of people tired of the same old ways and tired of career politicians," Maloney says.
WSAZ.com also will feature an interview with Tomblin in the near future on his thoughts about the race.
According to the poll released Tuesday, Tomblin has a 45-30 advantage where it was 56-32 in mid-April. However, experts say Republican Bill Maloney has gained a fair amount of ground on Tomblin over the last month and looks like a more viable opponent.
The poll found Maloney now leads Tomblin by 60-17 with GOP voters. Back in April, Maloney led Tomblin only by 51-26.
Experts also point out in the poll that Tomblin "took some lumps with Democrats in the final month of the primary." According to the poll, Tomblin's approval with Democrats was 54-20 in April, now it's 47-23.
Experts say Maloney hasn't seen much of an increase, but there has been an increase with the undecided voters. However, many experts say Maloney has to hold on to 100-percent of his party's vote to win the general election.
Right now, the poll found Maloney is getting 11-percent of the Democratic vote. Tomblin is getting 17-percent of the Republican vote.
The poll from Public Policy Policy states there are still a lot of undecided voters and Maloney's comeback in the primary is still noteworthy in this election.
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