Coal, jobs, the opioid epidemic, tax reform and the legalization of marijuana were among topics debated Tuesday among the top three Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate seat in West Virginia.
The live, hour-long, commercial-free debate on WSAZ's First Look at 4 included U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins (R -W.Va.), former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
Anchors Tim Irr and Amanda Barren moderated the debate to assure that each candidate was given a fair amount of time to speak.
There were some heated moments, including a couple back-and-forth exchanges between Jenkins and Morrisey. Blankenship went after both of his opponents, saying neither has made sufficient progress while in office.
In addition to opening and closing statements, we asked the candidates several questions including viewer-submitted questions. They included:
"The opioid epidemic is impacting every aspect of life in West Virginia. What are your specific plans, if elected, to generate more resources, funding, and time spent addressing the epidemic?"
"We have a president who supports coal, but he can't control market forces. We've been losing coal jobs for decades. A dozen coal-fired power plants are expected to close in 2018 -- that's according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Coal production was up last year, in part because of foreign demand. What do you see as the future of coal production here in our region?"
"What opportunities will you bring to West Virginia to ensure that the next generation isn't dependent on the coal industry for both work and energy?"
"West Virginia has been ranked the fourth worst state to raise a family and we are losing population every year – can Washington do anything to change that and make the state a place where people want to live?"
"Your potential colleague Sen. Shelley Moore Capito is working to create better broadband access for West Virginia. What is your plan to help the business climate?"
"With so many people without health care, what will you do to make sure people get insured?"
"What is your stance on medical marijuana for the purpose of opioid recovery, mental health and pain management?"
"Sen. Joe Manchin said he voted against the tax reform bill because it adds $1.5 trillion to the debt. It has only temporary tax cuts for working class families, but permanent tax cuts for people who make a lot of money, and it repealed the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act. What kind of tax reform do you support?"
"Without mentioning why your opponents are wrong for the job, why are you right for it?"
Video from the entire debate is posted on our Facebook page.