UPDATE 8/13/11 @ 11:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) The candidates in the special election for governor painted a picture of two different West Virginias in the only televised debate of the campaign, disagreeing over whether the state is headed in the right direction.
Front-running candidates Bill Maloney (R) and acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) debated Tuesday evening at the Clay Center at an event sponsored by the West Virginia Broadcasters Association.
The candidates both agreed about trying to make the state friendlier to business, calling as they have the entire campaign for more jobs and lower taxes.
But, they disagree on how to get there and about whether the state is doing well on its current path.
Moderator Hoppy Kercheval also pressed them about the attacks voters have seen on air for the last several months.
"I think we have such great potential in the state of West Virginia," Tomblin said.
But, Maloney says the state isn’t meeting that potential.
"And, I'm not satisfied with the state the way it is right now. If you're satisfied with the way things are going, you vote for my opponent," Maloney said.
During the first televised debate there was a lot of common ground on certain issues. Both candidates said they were pro-life, opposed to gay marriage and questioned man’s role in climate change.
They also agreed certain businesses taxes need to be cut, and that teachers deserve pay raises.
"I will do what I think is responsible, depending on if our revenues continue to improve," Tomblin said.
Similarly, Maloney said any pay raises need to be tied to the health of the state’s finances. "So, if there's a way we can do that within our budget, I'm all for it."
But there was plenty about which the candidates disagreed.
Maloney criticized giving tax incentives to certain companies, likening that to the state picking winners and losers.
Tomblin argued offering those incentives makes the state more competitive when trying to lure new businesses to West Virginia.
At one point, Maloney also said tax incentives aren’t a “bad thing” when applied “properly.”
Kercheval pressed Tomblin about claims in television ads and elsewhere that he steered money to his family's greyhound business.
Tomblin calls the attacks false.
He pointed out he has "nearly 40 years of service. I've got an unblemished career. I've been trying to do what I can to move the state of West Virginia forward."
Kercheval said to Maloney about his ads, "I'm asking now with (Tomblin) sitting there, are you saying he ran an illegal business?"
Maloney responded, "When I've been on a board and there's a vote that might help your family, you recuse yourself."
Kercheval pressed further, "Did he engage in unethical behavior? Your ads have repeatedly (made that claim)."
Maloney wouldn’t explicitly state Tomblin had acted unethically. Maloney said, "I'm saying that we have a culture here that has to change."
But, one thing Tomblin says doesn't need to change is the direction the state is headed.
He points to the state's surplus, and that the sees no need to raise taxes.
"I think there's a lot of people in the state of West Virginia who are very proud of the progress we have made and the direction we're going in, in this state," Tomblin said.
But, Maloney pointed to the state consistently being ranked poorly in national surveys on issues like business friendliness and education.
"I'm tired of being tired. We need to do things differently," Maloney said.
Going into this debate, Maloney trailed Tomblin by six points in a recent poll by Public Policy Polling. So, Maloney has gained ground on Tomblin over the summer, considering he trailed him by 15 points in May.
Independent and third-party candidates were not invited to the debate.
Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Bill Maloney met for their final debate Tuesday before the Oct. 4 vote. The state Broadcasters Association and AARP sponsored the televised event.
A Democrat, Tomblin cited West Virginia's stable government finances and scheduled tax cuts. He noted how employers like Macy's and Amazon are locating or expanding in the state.
Maloney touted his experience as a business owner. The Republican said West Virginia has a culture of despair, and that government is mostly to blame.
Maloney also stood by his campaign's attacks on Tomblin over a greyhound breeding business owned by his mother.
Six third-party, independent or certified write-in candidates are also running.