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Huffington Post Green: Taking on Big Coal Governors: West Virginia Mountain Party Candidate Inspires the Nation

In a blatant genuflect to the coal industry’s stranglehold over state politics, the West Virginia Broadcasters Association blocked the participation of popular Mountain Party gubernatorial candidate Dr. Bob Henry Baber last week, as it hosted a widely denounced debate between the two climate-change-denying, Big-Coal-bankrolled candidates.

Never has West Virginia seemed more like an embarrassing 19th-century throwback to dirty politics and absentee corporation control over the very heart of democratic elections than in the upcoming gubernatorial race.

Never has Baber’s inspiring and heartfelt campaign platform for a just transition to a sustainable and clean energy economy in ailing coal country seemed more timely — and threatening to the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Campaigning on the frontlines of the mountaintop removal humanitarian crisis, the former mayor of Richwood also see his campaign as a national litmus test for traditional Democrats, labor groups, greens and independents to hold Big Coal Democrats accountable for their reckless policies.

In an op-ed for the Charleston Gazette last week, long-time broadcaster and activist Bob Kincaid spelled out the decay of the Democratic Party in the Mountain State: “The West Virginia Democratic Party’s inexplicably tone-deaf subservience to an industry actively engaged in poisoning, deforming and killing innocent bystanders ensures and hastens its own irrelevance to a rising generation that knows the only future in the coal industry is a sad path to early graves.”

Former West Virginia governor and current Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), of course, is a notorious coal peddler who has become the punchline of late-night comedy shows for his millionaire earnings while mountaintop removal operations and outlaw mining companies have leveled his state. Earlier this year, Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued a “call to arms” to defend the absentee coal industry in his state.

I did an interview with Baber on his campaign, his background as a nationally acclaimed author and activist, the issue of mountaintop removal mining, and how he sees it within a national movement for clean politics and energy development.

Jeff Biggers: Based in the central Appalachian coalfields, do you see your campaign as part of a broader national effort to hold Big Coal accountable, especially in terms of mining operations like mountaintop removal?

Dr. Bob Henry Baber: All of us are, and will remain for the near future, dependent on coal for electricity. Over 10 percent of the electricity for the entire country is produced by West Virginia. We should be a wealthy state akin to Texas; instead we are a third-world state in a race with Mississippi to see which can be the poorest and unhealthiest in the nation. Mountaintop removal is the complete annihilation of an ecosystem, from the diversity of one of the finest hardwood forests in the world to the complete loss of topsoil and the wholesale burying of thousands of miles of streams and the polluting of many more. Coalfield residents who live in proximity to mining are being subjected to poisoned wells, toxic air and a near-total degradation of the quality of their lives. Furthermore, the deaths last year of 29 miners at Upper Big Branch, and the resulting reports, which predictably laid the blame on weak inspections and Massey Energy’s ingrained culture of cutting safety corners and intimidating miners, taken together with the horrors of MTR, prove that millions of Appalachian people are struggling to survive in an unofficial “national sacrifice zone.” My campaign is now merging with national outrage over mountaintop removal and with disgust over robber-baron coal industries’ “profit before people” practices.

JB: Mountaintop removal mining has drawn a lot of national attention. Do you feel West Virginia should abolish the strip mining practice, and if so, how would you deal with the repercussions for coal miners?

BHB: If we had a real Environmental Protection Agency, mountaintop removal would never have come into existence. It is the insane monster of collective corporate greed and our culture’s voracious appetite for electricity. The environmentalists are absolutely right. We should cease and desist immediately, period! Unfortunately, 6,000 direct jobs and as many more indirect jobs are tied to this renegade industry. There are good, hardworking people in MTR who have no choice but to participate in the destruction of their culture. In order to go to war, one must vilify one’s enemy. The mountains as God made them have become that enemy, and the false argument that sparsely populated coalfields need more flat land for development is the rationale that is being used to justify MTR. It is a near-total lie. Only 7 percent of stripped land is being redeveloped. The other 93 percent is a barren wasteland of desert-like eastern mesas. Now neither of my two-party opponents will admit we have an addiction, and both are staunch defenders of the industry. This has been the case for a century. However, I do readily acknowledge our problem and have a long-term plan to utilize greater severance taxes on coal and Marcellus shale and recapture federal abandoned mine land funds to “put the dozers in reverse,” reshape stripped land to become solar collection farms, and develop solar factories so as to begin transitioning MTR miners to the green and sustainable energy jobs of the future. To some this may sound naïve. But I’d rather have my head in the sky than my feet mired in mud. Now, I don’t think for a second that this will be anything but extremely difficult — as we have a recalcitrant legislature, powerful coal and gas lobbyists, federal politicians (including West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, the only Democratic Senator to take funds from the notorious Koch brothers) and many others who want to gut the EPA. We’ve also been conditioned to a cultural mindset that is seemingly sometimes resistant to change — even for the better. Alas, we have become adapted to being oppressed and sometimes even defending our well-known oppressors. Still, I believe we can retrain workers, diversify local economies, assist small towns in redevelopment, secure broadband, promote tourism and more. Finally, we also need to plant millions of nitrogen-fixing native locust trees, which, remarkably enough, would at least begin the painfully slow process of reclaiming ruined land currently lying sallow. West Virginia literally is ground zero for climate change. If we can’t stop MTR here and begin the turn towards sustainable energy, where and when will we start?

JB: Given West Virginia’s central role in energy production — from coal mining and burning, natural gas fracking to wind farms — how do you see your campaign as ground zero for other national electoral efforts focused on clean energy and environmental issues?

BHB: Although it’s happening late, MTR (which is seriously impacting eastern Kentucky, southwest Virginia, and other Appalachian states) is thankfully becoming one of the largest environmental movements in the United States. One exposure via the media, a speaker, or the Net is enough to convince most reasonable Americans that they’ve seen enough. That’s a good thing, because MTR can ultimately only be stopped on a national level since political corruption is entrenched in the coalfields. That is why I hope to take my campaign on the road and follow in the footsteps of other activists who have already done so in carrying the message far and wide.

JB: Describe how the Mountain Party is different from the Green Party, and why West Virginia is especially fertile ground for third-party candidates?

BHB: The Mountain Party shares core social justice issues with the National Green Party. As the country veers perilously towards the right, at least for now, the Mountain Party is the only party offering alternatives values and ideas here in West Virginia. I was the first Mountain Party person elected to office: the mayorship of the dying but developable, historic town of Richwood. This has proven to give me enhanced credibility with the media and the voters. I would hope that young people in particular will join the Mountain party and run for local offices. This is how the Greens changed European politics — from the grassroots up.

JB: With the issue of jobs foremost on most voters’ minds, can you explain your vision for a just transition from West Virginia’s coal economy to a sustainable clean energy economy, especially in terms of green jobs?

BHB: Although the state’s ratio of registered Democrats to Republicans is 3 to 1, this is merely a psychological “hangover” from the 1950s, when West Virginia, a state of 2 million, had 125,000 union coal miners and was as “liberal” as Massachusetts. Today the state has just 20,000 miners, only about 6,000 of whom are union. Deep-mining jobs have been supplanted by MTR, which, though it employs 6,000, has probably cost two to three times that many deep mine jobs. Ultimately, MTR is a job breaker, not a job maker.

JB: How has the Democratic Party failed West Virginians, and do you see the Mountain Party as a vehicle for organizing other statewide races beyond 2012?

BHB: West Virginia will probably never again vote for a Democratic president. For the last time it almost did in the 2000 Gore/Bush race. Had West Virginia gone for Gore, Florida would have been irrelevant. That is one of the great untold stories of the 2000 election. Anyway, Cheney and company shrewdly cobbled together a crew of pro-gun, anti-gay, pro-stripping voters who, to Gore’s shock, flipped the state, which he and his staff had mistakenly “pocketed” after their convention. It proved to be the costliest error of the campaign. The only reason that Republicans haven’t made greater inroads locally is that they have fielded weak candidates, and, most importantly, “real” West Virginia Democrats who will stand up for common citizens and the environment are an endangered specifies. It’s hard to run against Democrats who are in fact, if not in name, Republicans. For example, in the current gubernatorial race, Tomblin, the Democrat, has as his slogan: “More Jobs, Lower Taxes.” Wrong, says Maloney, the Republican; it should be “Lower Taxes, More Jobs.” Imagine these two arguing over a phrase cooked up by an overpaid public relations consulting firm that could be working for either one of them. Absurd. Either way, the phrase is a two-legged stool that means nothing without the third leg: capital — which neither party has the guts to demand from the fossil fuel industries that have historically dominated the state. Ironically, the national pundits will probably talk up the significance of the West Virginia race as a “bell-weather” for the 2012 elections. Unless I win, chalk up the talking heads’ conjecture as mere nonsense.

JB: In many respects, West Virginia tipped the scales in the Gore-Bush presidential campaign in 2000. How do you see your campaign vis-à-vis the Obama administration and other presidential candidates? What sort of support have you picked up across the state, and are you touring nationally to raise funds and support?

BHB: My support from the state is growing. I’ve asked voters, “As we head into the mine of West Virginia’s future, do you prefer a lumbering elephant, a stupid donkey or a canary that can warn you of danger and sing a song of hope?” And by appealing to the average West Virginian’s sense that we’ve given too much and seen far too little in return, I’ve tapped into the discontent of people of many different political persuasions. I’ve also been careful not to appear “overly” pro-environment to the extent that I seem insensitive to the complexities that face transitioning from an extraction mentality to a sustainability mentality. Finally, I’ve spoken quite a bit about fiscal responsibility. As a person who is into reclamation, recycling and reducing waste, I feel my “green” principles aptly apply to managing the state budget of $4 billion prudently.

JB: Can you give us a little background on your own work as a writer, an educator, a small-town mayor and an activist?

BHB: I became a writer because my Appalachian father was an artist. He painted with oils on canvas. I paint with words on paper. In the 1970s I was quite fortunate to stumble into Antioch/Appalachia, where I met fellow poets dealing with the issues of stereotyping and strip-mining. We formed a group called the Soupbean Poets and printed a literary magazine called What’s a Nice Hillbilly Like You….

In 1977, after a huge flood aggravated by strip-mining and clear-cutting, I co-edited a small anthology called Mucked that collected regional writers concerned with environmental issues. One of the contributors was Gail Amburgey, a survivor of the horrid Buffalo Creek flood in 1972 that killed over 100 people, and that the coal company whose slag dam failed described as “an act of God.” My second poetry book, A Picture from Life’s Other Side, was published in 1994. It had many anti-strip-mining poems in it and precipitated a call from the West Virginia Coal Association to Concord College’s President. “We’re never going to give a plug nickel to Concord until you get rid of Bob Henry Baber,” was the message he received. I was soon shown the door. Unemployed and buoyed by a Kellogg National Leadership Fellowship, I decided to run for the governorship in the 1996 Democratic primary. Just before the primary I bowed out to the front-runner, Charlotte Pritt, who lost in a very close election. In 2004, I was elected mayor of Richwood. It was by far the hardest job I’ve ever had. Despite sometimes intense local resistance, I was able to secure $4 million to clean up the Cherry River and another $1 million for sidewalks, historic repairs, worker raises and more. I used the bully pulpit to advocate for the growing of the nearby Cranberry Wilderness, for which I won the Hero Award of the National Wilderness Society. That was a John Muir moment! But in the end, I couldn’t stem Richwood’s decline. My perspective on that: the Marcellus shale gas rush, which is threatening the entire state and my ancestral farm because I only “own” the surface, the continuing nightmare of MTR, and the current status of the “Republicrats,” nationally and here in West Virginia, have compelled me to run in what one reporter characterized as a futile effort. To me, speaking for common people about issues that matter most, telling the truth is never a futile effort.

The recent publication of my novel, Pure Orange Sunshine, the true story of my being shot in 1971 with a .38 and charged with attempted murder of a police officer by the LAPD at an Easter Love-In they turned into a riot with agent provocateurs, combined with my efforts to reshape the consciousness of West Virginia in my run for the governorship, has made this one of the most rewarding years of my life. This is a bad time for teachers, unions, the unemployed, the uninsured and the environment, but it’s a very good time to be an American boy who still believes in the American dream and who is willing to fight for it no matter what the cost.

Kabler: To the victors go the spoils

Election 2011 winners and losers:

Winner: Earl Ray Tomblin. Some might say, how can Tomblin be a winner when he barely squeaked by in an election that, on paper, he should have won easily?

Put Tomblin in the winner’s column if only because, despite having five months to dig up “dirt” on him, the only smear that Greg Thomas and his merry band of pranksters could come up with (that wasn’t 20-plus years in the past) was that Tomblin shares a post office box with other family members.

Given our knee-jerk assumptions that all Southern West Virginia politicians are into corruption and cronyism, it’s sometimes hard to fathom that Tomblin has basically stayed on the straight and narrow through 36 years of legislative service.

Loser: The electioneering arm of the Republican Governors Association, and all the (anonymous) contributors who kicked in $3.4 million to try to throw the election. As pointed out here last week, the relentless barrage of negative (and frequently false) ads, fliers and robo-calls may well have ticked off as many would-be voters as it generated.

Winners: Media outlets statewide, that picked up somewhere in the neighborhood of $8 million in sales of commercial airtime in what otherwise would have been an off-year for elections.

Loser: The Mountain Party. The state’s third party had an appealing candidate in Bob Henry Baber, who might well have picked up 3 to 4 percent, perhaps more, of the vote from teachers, union members, mountaintop removal opponents, and left-of-center voters not enamored with either of the politically conservative front-runners.

Then came the election-eve Public Policy Polling poll showing the race as a statistical dead-heat, which undoubtedly scared straight some would-be protest voters (public school and state employees in particular) to vote Tomblin.

Without the PPP poll Monday, it’s not inconceivable that Baber pulls down closer to 4 percent of the vote, and today’s lead story would be about the pending election recount.

Loser: Bill Maloney. Maloney came off as a likeable guy, and obviously appealed to large numbers of voters, although he was frequently vague-to-clueless on key issues.

(Longtime political pundit/observer H. John Rogers said he got a big chuckle out of Maloney’s line about how he would improve the state’s business climate by doing three “simple things,” revamping the judicial system, rewriting the tax code, and eliminating government bureaucracy. Rogers noted that, in reality, accomplishing any one of those goals would be a Herculean challenge — particularly for a minority party governor with only a 14-month term of office.)

One major flaw in the Maloney campaign was that he (and the RGA) went negative before he had effectively established a positive image of himself in the minds of voters.

One observer suggested that the last ad he ran in the final days of the race (in which Maloney explained he was running for governor because he was tired of the state being 49th or 50th in everything) should have run for three or four weeks at the start of the fall campaign.

While there’s been speculation about whether Maloney would have been better off to run a primarily positive campaign (a la successful businessman/political outsider Gaston Caperton in 1988), ultimately, Maloney was like Mongo in “Blazing Saddles”: “only pawn … in game of life…”

With the massive influx of RGA electioneering dollars, by the end of the race the campaign was essentially out of Maloney’s hands and in the control of the RGA, whose only real interest in a Maloney victory was to the extent it would have embarrassed and further weakened the Obama White House going into 2012.

***

Winner: U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin. Ultimately, the ads with Manchin personally endorsing Tomblin narrowly trumped the RGA ads attempting to tie Tomblin to President Obama — which proved to be critical, particularly since the Tomblin campaign made a calculated gamble not to put out a response ad to counter the RGA’s claims.

***

Finally, the biggest losers: The statehouse press corps. With a Maloney victory, there would be no shortage of material, beginning with the issue of whether Tomblin would have stepped down as governor once the election was certified, or would refuse to budge until Nov. 15, the last day he could continue to act as governor under the January state Supreme Court decision mandating the special election.

That would have been followed by the uproar over Tomblin’s return to the Senate as its president (assuming he wouldn’t have retired from politics with an Oct. 4 defeat): Would he restore his old Senate leadership team, leave the current team (minus acting Senate President Jeff Kessler) in place, or come up with some sort of hybrid?

Then, there would have been the matter of watching Maloney try to set up his leadership team in a matter of weeks, instead of the usual 2 1/2 months. (Reportedly, he had scheduled a press conference for last Thursday to introduce his transition team). That would have been followed by the delightful interaction between former gubernatorial rivals (primary or general) Maloney, Tomblin and House Speaker Rick Thompson during the 2012 regular session.

The resulting gridlock no doubt would have made Congress look like a paragon of legislative efficiency.

Baber fights for Blair Mountain

At 9:30AM, on Friday, September 30, 2011, Dr. Robert “Bob Henry” Baber, Mountain
Party Gubernatorial Candidate, will convene at the Coal Miners’ Memorial, located at
the West Virginia Capitol Complex, 1900 Kanawha Blvd E, Charleston, for the
purpose of making a direct appeal to Alpha Natural Resources.

The historically significant request is likely to result in a lasting positive impact on the
state. Dr. Baber encourages all who share his passion and vision for a West Virginia for all
West Virginians to stand with him at this historical event.

The state of West Virginia is largely divided by a line drawn by coal. It is important to know
that no matter what side of the issue one falls on, the initiative being taken by Dr. Baber is
one that could help bring the two sides closer together. It will, at least, serve as a reminder
that there is always a way to find common ground from which great collaborative strides
can be made. It goes without saying that the contributions made by West Virginians at
Battle of Blair Mountain, like the more recent, and ultimate, sacrifices made by West
Virginians at Upper Big Branch are significant, ever-relevant and deserving of special
regard & historical preservation & designation.

Please mark your calendars and plan to be present for this moment in time that is will be
regarded as memorable, bold, exciting and forward-thinking.

”"”"

* “Upper Big Branch Coal Miner Memorial…” **“Sheriff’s deputies during the battle of Blair Mountain”

 

* http://www.panoramio.com/photo/34459096
** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Blair_Mountain

 

Interviews with candidates for governor: Bob Henry Baber, Mountain Party

BECKLEY — West Virginia has the opportunity to play a role as a major energy producer — either with coal, natural gas or alternative energy sources. What do you see as policy barriers to our further growth as an energy state and does elimination or change to those barriers fit into making West Virginia a healthier place to live?

That’s a pretty big question. I’m going to distill the essence of my campaign to this. We are blessed to be an energy-producing state. That’s one of the reasons why we’re better in shape than most states, though none of us are in too great of shape. The rainy day fund exists, but it’s only on paper and we have a leaky roof, and you know, other post employment benefits are looming on the horizon, so we would do well to raise more.

That’s the crux of my platform and everything else spins off of it. The hub of my platform. The hub of my platform is that we should raise the severance tax on coal from 5 to 7 percent; that’s what Wyoming has as their rate. Now, Wyoming is out-producing us three to one, it’s a conservative state, like we are, really. If it’s good enough for Wyoming, it’s good enough for me.

I feel that would generate an additional approximately $150 to $200 million capital. Marcellus shale, the permits are $600 per well. Now, this is the permit for the old general store wells, from the ’70s and ’80s. These guys aren’t building little general stores, but Super Wal-Marts. We need to raise the rate from $600 to I’m saying $40,000 to $60,000.

Now, that sounds like a lot of money, but it’s actually 1 percent of the cost of a well, or half of what we are paying for our food tax, even though that is like comparing nuts and apples.

I want to say something to you all. I was asked by the Dominion Post editorial board, “How would you ever get that through the Legislature?”

I’m a political realist. I understand you have to work with the Legislature. It’s pretty ridiculous to give people well permits for $600 when they’re spending $4 million per well. I also want to increase the severance tax on natural gas to Oklahoma’s rate. Oklahoma’s only third in the nation, so they aren’t extremists or anything like that. It’s a state that does well producing gas.

I would like to take that revenue, which would be another $150 million and, you know, this is the big debate in our society today, government doesn’t create jobs. I’ll take it a step past that. Government needs to create jobs and the first jobs we need to create are inspector jobs for the Marcellus shale wells. We don’t have anybody down there in the DEP right now who has the expertise to do it.

There’s 15 people down there and there’s 60,000 existing mom-and-pop wells, but these Marcellus shale wells, there’s a lot involved, casings, inspections, compressor stations, air testing, water quality monitoring — there’s a lot to it.

The most any inspector gets paid down there is $40,000 and they have to have three years experience in the field. Now, why would you stay with the DEP as an inspector if you have three years experience in the field and go out in the Marcellus shale gas fields and make $60,000 or $70,000? You wouldn’t.

That’s the first thing we need to do, to get some inspection going there.

I want to make this clear. I used to be the biggest treehugger in the state of West Virginia, no lie. Then, one day I looked up and realized who’s consuming the most trees. Me. I’m a consumer, I understand. I love electricity, just like you guys do. I drive in my car; I drove to get here today. I love natural gas for heating my house. We’re going to be using this stuff and we’re going to be using it for a long time.

Unfortunately the history of West Virginia is that for 100 years, we’ve pretty much sold ourselves for the cheapest amount we could and we can’t afford to do it anymore. What that’s done to us is landed us in a three-legged race with Mississippi to see who can be the poorest state in the union when, in fact, we should be one of the wealthiest.

I want to support, I want to create jobs, not just in inspections, but out in the field. We’re doing that at Glenville State. We are sending people out to be in the fields and work the Marcellus shale fields. There’s a lot of jobs to be had there for West Virginians.

There was a lady in Wheeling that said, “In God we trust, all others we monitor.” I love that quote. I understand that industry is in the business of making money and it’s always a great temptation for a business to cut corners or to up their profit line. My job as governor of West Virginia would be to look out for the entire state of West Virginia, not to be the president or governor of Alpha Energy. What’s best for all the people.

With regard to the southern counties, which have given the most and have the least of that severance tax, we’re going to see that they get more of that severance tax. I think they just got flipped another little peanut down here. It’s not much. Significant new severance tax dollars need to come to southern West Virginia so that we can diversify. I don’t want to be misinterpreted on this. No one is going to wave a magic wand over southern West Virginia, or any other part of West Virginia, and turn it green.

It’s not going to happen overnight, but someone needs to start a plan and recognize that we need to start thinking about that and start transitioning. Neither one of my opponents, Mr. Maloney or Mr. Tomblin, are going to do that. They are a Republican and a Republican-light. I’m the only Democrat running. I’m the only blue collar guy running, and I’m the only green collar running.

- – -

Infrastructure development and maintenance in the Mountain State is particularly challenging and with the likelihood that federal funding will only cover a small percentage of those costs, at least in the near term, what is the best way for West Virginia to fix and build roads, bridges and other infrastructure?

The first thing we need is bonding from Marcellus shale activities. The roads that we currently have don’t get exploded like the roads in rural Wetzel County and places all up and even Greenbrier County. It turns out that Greenbrier County, around Richwood where I am at, is turning out to be a real hotspot for fracking. I didn’t know.

It’s unfortunate because they’ve been crawling all over my land and I’m only a surface owner. That’s an issue. I want to protect surface owners rights, no forced pooling.

We need to have cradle to the grave monitoring; we need baseline monitoring where our rivers are at, where the air is at, and where the wells are at. That way if we do have a pollution, we know that it came from Marcellus hale. Bonding is a key mechanism.

Looking at the federal government, it does not look good. Getting federal dollars is going to get tougher and tougher and tougher. I am a grant writer. I happen to know that we, in terms of private foundations, are getting the least of any state in the nation. Mississippi outstrips us four to one.

If I become governor, I’m going to hire the best grant writers in the country to come to West Virginia and we’re going to train West Virginians to be better grant writers, too. We’re going to chase private foundation dollars and link them with state needs like economic development, like broadband, like education, like entrepreneurship, like obesity.

We’re also going to make sure we have the best grant writers so we can compete for federal dollars, as well. There will still be federal dollars out there, but it’s going to be tougher and tougher and tougher to get. We need to have the smartest people with their ears closest to the ground, so we can get in there and get our fair share of the pie.

The pie is shrinking, but we would like to keep our portion of it as large as we can. The way to do that is by fairly having the best people write the best grants.

I think that if we talk to the Marcellus shale people and get negotiations, I know right around Richwood they upgraded a few roads by means of being good citizens. I think those are good discussions to  have. I’m not a big supporter of mountaintop removal; in fact, I dislike it. To the extent that mountaintop removal is happening, we can incorporate road building into that. Some along the border is a good win-win for everybody.

You might say that I am an outside of the box guy. I’m the idea person. I’ve had a lot of ideas in my life, I’ve plenty of ideas for West Virginia and I like bringing ideas to people around me. I like using West Virginians, I will use West Virginians, but I’m also going to look outside of the state for new people that may have ideas.

- – -

What is your proposed solution to resolving the OPEB debt?

The Rainy Day Fund is currently sitting at $300 million. A lot of people would probably think that I, as a Mountain Party, would be a sort of tax and spend sort of guy. I am not for raising taxes on the poor. Get rid of the food tax. I want to lower the taxes on small businesses; I want to grow small business. I am against free and reduced lunches for the outside corporations.

That does not mean that we are not going to compete to get places like Macy’s. You definitely have to put the sweeteners out there because you’re competing with other states. When I was up in Wheeling, someone said, “What about gambling? What do you think?” I prefaced my remarks by saying, “You know, I’m a single father, I’ve raised three children on a pittance. I’ve been a poet. I’ve done OK for myself for a guy with very little money.”

I’m very tight and I’m very frugal and I don’t like gambling. I just won’t do it. The state did get in the gambling business and we’re going to have to do exactly what we have to do to compete. If it means changing the slots to compete with what Ohio does, we’ll have to do it, too, because we are depending on that money.

Ethically, from a hindsight point of view, and if other states weren’t going to do it, I don’t think anyone should have gone in the gambling business. But they did, we’re there and it’s not going to change. Same thing with trying to entice new businesses to come in. It’s something you have to do.

If it means training, if it means infrastructure for jobs, you’re going to have to take a good hard look at it and find out if the bottom line is worth what you’re going to get out of it.

Mr. Maloney, unfortunately, I like the man a lot, I really do, he’s a sweet guy and I’ve had some nice conversations with him. I don’t really think he’s wrapped himself around the state budget. It’s a $4 billion a year budget. It’s pretty tight. I’m sure there’s some fat in it, but most of the fat is marbleized.

I was the mayor in Richwood, West Virginia, where our budget was just $1 million; this is all economies of scale anyway. I was able to, after a year or so, able to find 10 to 15 percent of waste and cut it with misused equipment, workers not working and different kinds of things. When you’re at a grassroots level, you can do that.

As governor, you really can’t. All you can do is set a tone at the top of your administration that puts that out to the world and replicates down the line.

Truly, when I talk to you about having $350 million more from severance tax money, we’re probably going to have to take the total and just about split it half toward the new and sweeteners I talked to you about. We’ve got this humongous debt coming due. We have $350 million in the bank, but we’ve got a roof that starts to leak and it’s about to leak in a big way. It’s a very, very expensive roof.

We really need to generate more capital.

Mr. Tomblin has a phrase. It’s a slogan. “More jobs, lower taxes.” Mr. Maloney says, “No, no. Lower taxes, more jobs.” That is a two-legged stool. Who is not for more jobs and lower taxes? I don’t know anybody who isn’t. They’re arguing over a public relations slogan that someone at Charles Ryan thought up.

There’s a third leg to that stool. It’s called capital. Otherwise, if you go to sit on that stool you’re going to fall on your a–. The third leg is capital and that’s what we need to generate. We’ve had 100 years of giving too much.

If you think West Virginia has given too much timber, too much coal, too many miners’ lives, too many miners’ black lungs, too many successful generations of children away, generation after generation of our best and brightest, if you think all that needs to change, you need me for your governor.

If you want caretaker A or caretaker B, then vote for Mr. Maloney or Mr. Tomblin and it really won’t make much of a difference. Mr. Tomblin has a D behind his name, but he’s no Democrat. He’s Republican-light.

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Drug abuse continues to be viewed as an epidemic in our state. What solutions do you see as being the most effective for reducing drug traffic, treating or punishing abusers and reducing crimes associated with drug abuse?

It’s a terrible problem and it was god-awful bad in Richwood where I was. The answer I’m going to give may surprise you, but write it down. We need jobs for our youth. That’s one of the things we need. I saw that in Richwood. There’s very few jobs for the kids.

I had a job. I liked having some money in my pocket. I liked being able to go buy a new pair of jeans. I liked being able to take some foxy lady out to the movies. That stuff kept me good. I was too busy doing other things.

We really need to get some youth jobs. There is plenty of work to be done in the community revitalizing houses and this and that.

The state has the capability to monitor the physicians who are over-prescribing. Let’s get them. Let’s put them in prison, big time. There are pain mills out here in the state where you can go in and some only accept cash. They know if they write you a prescription for that pain you’ve got in your back, you can go out on the street, triple your money, come back and get another prescription. That kind of stuff is killing us.

This is a big problem. I raised three children in Richwood, West Virginia, and it was my greatest fear that on the wrong given night, they would go up the hollow with some kids with OxyContin and they’d crush them up and snort them with a straw and get their brain circuitry rewired. All of my kids are doing great, they made it through, but I can go back to Richwood and I can see friends of theirs and others who are lost.

It’s only going to get worse.

We don’t want to send the kids that we catch off to our regional facilities. That’s a real bad idea. I’ve done time in jail myself, not for drugs, but I can tell that when you throw youth in with some old-timers, they’re going to pick up some bad tricks real fast. I’m for alternative sentencing, community sentencing, and I’m also for education in our schools.

It’s like when you drank your first couple of beers. People tell you, don’t drink. But you drink those first couple of beers and you get a buzz going, it feels pretty good. You think, maybe they weren’t really shooting straight with me. These kids have no idea these designer drugs we’ve created are so powerful.

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Job creation is on the minds of West Virginians and Americans. If elected, what specific initiatives would you take to stimulate job growth in the various sectors of West Virginia’s economy?

To me, the biggest infrastructure road that we need to complete is broadband. That’s the road to the future and that’s based upon entrepreneurship and keeping our youth here in the state. We’re going to start grant programs to develop entrepreneurship and I want to have grant programs for small towns. If they have dreams they want to realize, like we did in Richwood. We had all kinds of dreams; we just didn’t have any capital. If the cities don’t have grant writers, we’re going to hire grant writers to go out and help them.

I’ve written grants. Grants are hard to write. They’re a pain in the a–. You don’t know if you’re going to get the money. The average person doesn’t know how to do it; they don’t know the dance. So, that whole grant world is an education world for our nonprofits and the rest of it.

I would like to see West Virginia, over time, and I hate to be misquoted on this, it’s easy to do. Over time, I want to see us transition fossil fuels, over the course of the next 25 to 40 years, to make sure we become one of the leading green energy states in the nation. We’re in the fortunate position of being an energy producer. Some energy states have created foundations where they hold a certain percentage of what they are bringing in.

A lot of it they are holding and investing in stocks and they’ll pull it out in 20 to 30 years. Most of those states are in better shape than we are. So, while that’s sort of an appealing idea, I probably would want to squirrel away a little bit of it.

I have a phrase about West Virginia that goes something like this: “West Virginia, Almost Heaven, Almost Hell.” Which part of West Virginia do you live in? Some of us are doing pretty well. Some of us are not doing so well. We’ve got to help those folks who aren’t doing so well.

As much as we flatten our land, particularly in southern West Virginia, and I think we have enough flat land, I think we ought to be tilting our land to face the sun. We should be doing like China and Germany is now, creating solar manufacturing farms over time. It may sound grandiose, it may even sound naive, but you know what? A lot of people thought it was naive for Glenville State to go down there and adopt Yeager Airport and plant 10,000 trees on the side of the mountain, but we did it.

I like to think big, I like to think outside of the box, and I like to think what’s an idea that we haven’t thought of before that could really change things.

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How can West Virginia reverse the trend of losing qualified math and science teachers, and all teachers for that matter, to neighboring states that pay higher salaries?

I think we need to give all of our teachers a raise. I would like to see about a $5,000 wage increase, say over the next three to five years. All these tensions that we’ve talked about, money, the OPEB debt, fiscal responsibility. There’s so many things, the idea that I wanted to grow all of this, we’re going to have to strike a balance.

I’m the only candidate that’s thinking about generating new money. Here’s the thing: You cannot get elected governor of West Virginia if you talk like this. Coal won’t support you, the Chamber of Commerce won’t support you, you won’t get on the West Virginia Public Broadcasting debates.

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Please take a few minutes to discuss other elements of your platform we may not have covered.

People can visit my website if they want. It’s not just a bunch of slogans. It’s www. Baber4Governor.com. You can learn a lot about West Virginia history from that. I’ll give you two soundbites if you will.

One is West Virginia for West Virginians, finally at last, and the other is no free or reduced lunches for large, outside corporations.

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Editor’s Note: Mr. Baber appeared before our editorial board last week two days before Delegate John Doyle, D-Jefferson, called for a raise in the state gasoline tax. We attempted to contact Baber later in the week for his position on the issue but were unable to reach him. He was involved in an automobile accident Thursday and was taken to a Morgantown hospital for treatment. When we receive his comments, we will publish them in a future edition.

Baber runs for seat as Mountain Party candidate

By David Beard

The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Sept. 18–Bob Henry Baber is a storied candidate — literally. He turned his life into a story: “Pure Orange Sunshine.”

Baber calls the book a “classic chronicle of sex, drugs, and rock and roll — strike-breaking, strip-mining and hitch-hiking.” It tells the semi-fictional story of James Webb surrounding his 1971 arrest at an Easter lovein riot, and his girlfriend, Maria, who rescues him after he has been shot in both legs.

Sadly, the timing of the novel’s release, he chuckles mournfully, wasn’t quite the serendipity he’d imagined. More or less coincidentally, it hits the stands just as he’s running for governor — so the media won’t review it, out of fairness to the candidates without novels.

Baber is a study in contrasts: Former mayor, former Democrat, college grant writer, outspoken opponent of mountaintop removal mining, poet, artist, a rebel who wants to sit inside the Capitol’s marble halls and make law.

His campaign website pictures him in a coat and tie. His novel’s cover is a green and orange affair reminiscent of 1960s and ’70s stoner rock, with the shirtless, bleeding, bullet-wounded hero and his savior girlfriend goggling at floating hallucinations.

His campaign site — dignified shades of blue with square, orderly boxes — says Baber is “running on a platform of fiscal responsibility, economic growth, affordable health care, promotion of education, and environmental stewardship.”

His book site — sunshine greens and yellows bursting with plants — carries this author bio by a fellow writer: “Baber is the grand poet of revolution and loss and redeeming love. Somehow this good outlaw boy has survived the ultimate hillbilly-hippie hero’s descent into the portals of hell not only to brag about it, but to sing that journey’s tall tale from the West Virginia mountaintops. …”

“I just wore a lot of different hats in my life,” he told The Dominion Post during a campaign day in Morgantown.

“I’m so much like my father,” Troy Baber, a West Virginia native and World War II vet who married a New Yorker and raised his family in the famous Long Island suburb, Levittown. Troy was also an environmentalist, an artist — he painted for fun and did commercial art for the A&P grocery chain — and a gardener. Troy dug up their entire Levittown backyard and turned it into a garden — peaches, green beans, tomatoes — and gave it away.

“The neighbors were stunned. They just freaked.”

He inherited his love of politics from his grandfathers — his paternal a Roosevelt Democrat, his maternal, “a borderline John Bircher Republican.” He recalls the New York grandfather came to visit the other one day, and they argued politics for hours, “vehemently but friendly.”

It was a delight and an inspiration.

Baber opens his campaign day at Little Tikes daycare, reading poems to the tykes. Then it’s a trip across town, to the other end of the life spectrum, at Sundale Nursing Home.

“I like old people,” he tells his 14 audience members. “Good thing since I’m getting to be one.”

He recalls his 1995-’96 run for governor as a Democrat. He was longshot, with A. James Manchin and Charlotte Pritt as the party frontrunners. He wasn’t even on the radar of a store employee at Big Lots, where he was shopping one day.

The employee talked about her and her best friend’s political views. “‘She’s for Manchin. I’m for Pritt. We’re going to cancel each other out. That’s what friends are for,’ ” he recalled.

He reads them some poems, including one from 1994 called, “West Virginia Lowku,” (a “down-home haiku, the blue jeans of the poetry realm”): “National statistics indicate/West Virginia has the highest/auto accident fatality ratio/and the lowest crime rate/I take this to mean/that the roads are crooked/and the people are straight.”

From Sundale, he travels to WVU’s downtown campus to pass out pamphlets and greet students from a table in the free speech zone. His daughter, Cara Perkins, is with him, and comments on his love of all things green — planting in any space available.

They lived in Richwood on Spruce Street, she said, and he grew asparagus along the fence line.

The last stop is Dorsey’s Knob Park, and a Mountain Party potluck. Party Treasurer Frank Young, of Ripley, is there. He was with the party in 1988, before it was a party, and saw it officially born in 2000 when Denise Giardina ran for governor.

“I’m proud to be associated with Mr. Baber,” he said. It’s a “shoe leather campaign” with not a lot of money, but interest is growing and he expects they’ll do better than in 2008, when Jesse Johnson tallied 31,486 votes for governor — about 4.4 percent of the total.

Politics requires thick skin. Baber knows that from his tumultuous days as Richwood mayor, from 2004-’07. “I got the tar beat out of me in Richwood.” He was impeached, but resigned before he was voted out. His predecessor was impeached, too.

One thing he carries from his previous run for governor, and his time in Richwood, is his love of people. “I don’t want to have insulation between me and the people.”

If elected, Baber said it would be his dream to have an inaugural party in the form of a public potluck on the Capitol lawn. For health and safety reason, he knows it couldn’t happen.

For all his literary and academic achievements, one of his proudest accomplishments is a 2008 project through Glenville State College — where he’s the major gifts officer — to plant 10,000 trees at the Yeager Airport in Charleston. It was a major effort to stay erosion caused by construction, and to beautify the site.

Only 2,000 locust trees survived, he laments, but if he could get that done, imagine what he could do from the governor’s seat.

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(c)2011 The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.)

Visit The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.) at www.dominionpost.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Baber: ‘We should be one of the richest states in the nation’

(Source: The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.))trackingBy David Beard, The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.

Sept. 18–The Dominion Post talked with Mountain Party gubernatorial candidate Bob Henry Baber about his campaign and his views on issues he would face as governor. Here are his answers.

The campaign

Baber lumps the two leading candidates together as “Republocrats” who are essentially the same.

He hinges his campaign on raising state revenues by raising Marcellus gas well permit fees, and raising gas and coal severance taxes. The severance tax hikes alone, he said, could bring in $300 million to $400 million a year.

“I understand money because I’ve been a mayor. I understand what it’s like to have a town with no money. You can have all the studies and the visions in the world of what you ought to do. If you don’t have any money you can’t do anything. With $300 more million we can do something.”

His ideas to expand broadband, open up higher education and more hinge on that.

“All the other issues are secondary to fossil fuels. We should be one of the richest states in the nation. Instead we’re in a three-legged race with Mississippi to see who can be the poorest and the unhealthiest.”

His first job as governor, Baber said, would be to hire the 10 best grant writers in the nation to bring in private foundation money that’s out there for the taking, but no one is seeking out.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to hang onto our children. It’s killing us. It’s killing our future.”

As far as his future: ” I’m going to run for re-election in 2012.”

Marcellus shale legislation

Baber calls the emergency rules recently approved “spit in the wind.” Apart from requiring disclosure of fracking fluids, they accomplish nothing.

The five-member Oil and Gas Inspectors’ Examining Board — with two industry members and a surface owner/environmentalist seat unfilled for several years reflects “West Virginia encapsulated to its essence. … Doesn’t the governor care enough to appoint even a token representative? Appoint me to the board. I’ll happily serve. … The train has left the station, but maybe we ought to have an engineer.”

Baber proposes raising horizontal well permit fees from the current $600 to 1 percent of the well’s cost — at least $40,000 — to hire more inspectors at competitive salaries and mitigate environmental damages. He wouldn’t expect the Legislature to OK that figure, but it’s a negotiating point to get a realistic figure.

Baber calls the commonlaw tradition of severed estates a holdover from feudalism.

For surface owners, “the best thing that we can do for the short haul is say no fracking within two miles of an occupied residence,” water intakes, residential areas and schools.

Mountaintop removal mining

This is a primary issue for the Mountain Party. At some point, the industry will run out of mountains to mine.

“We need to start thinking about the transition of the southern coal fields. … It won’t be easy.”

He suggests moving to solar power. Configure the mined mountains to tilt toward the sun and build solar manufacturing plants and solar collecting stations. Retrain the miners over time to work in the new industries.

“It is a little bit grandiose,” he admits. But so was the 2008 Yeager Airport project to plant 10,000 trees to mitigate construction damage — and he pulled that off.

Severance taxes

He wants to raise the oil and gas severance tax from the current 5 percent to 7 percent, and the wellhead tax — now used to pay off the old workers’ compensation debt — from 4.7 cents per thousand cubic feet to 9.5 cents. He estimates that could generate $100 million to $200 million a year.

He would also raise the coal severance tax from 5 percent to 7.5 percent, generating an estimated $200 million. He would use the income to pay for education and economic development and diversification.

Education

“There seems to be a movement to vilify teachers. When did they become the enemy? … We have a problem teaching to the test [WESTEST],” Baber said. “It’s dummied down the whole system.” Kids are showing up at college lacking writing, math and thinking skills.

He likes the PROMISE scholarship but would like to go beyond, to expand such things as Glenville State’s Hidden Promise, which recruits and nurtures eighth- through 12thgraders and gives them $1,000 Glenville State scholarships.

State roads

The state needs to get as much as it can from the shrinking federal pot, and use increased revenue from fossil fuel taxes.

But, “the road I’m most interested in building right now is broadband. If you don’t have broadband you’re toast.” Meanwhile, Baber said he likes one school system’s idea of providing kids with computer notebooks that contain all their books and homework. Even without Internet access, they have all they need in one small package.

Economic diversification

Baber said he would study the models in other states and countries, and transition “slowly but diligently. … I would love to quadruple the tourist budget. We just need to tell the world our great secret — and tourist money is great money.”

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(c)2011 The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.)

Visit The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.) at www.dominionpost.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

A service of YellowBrix, Inc.

UPDATE: GOVERNOR CANDIDATE BOB HENRY BABER INJURED IN I-79 CRASH

UPDATE – Bob Henry Baber, the Mountain Party’s candidate for governor, is saying he and his two adult children are bruised, but lucky to be alive, after a collision with a truck on Interstate 79.

Baber and his kids, Jackie, 21, and Cody, 19, checked themselves out of Ruby Memorial Hospital on Thursday in hopes of catching an early Friday flight to Utah to attend the marriage of his oldest daughter.

Baber said he is wearing a neck brace.

“I’m a little banged up, a little bruised and my car has seen its better days,” he said.

“Anytime you tango with a semi truck and it cuts you off and slaps you around by the tail end, and you walk way from that, you’ve got to thank God.”

Baber was en route to Pittsburgh International Airport when a Peterbilt tractor-trailer moved into his lane and collided with his Jeep.

The driver said he was unaware of the collision when he was later stopped by police.

ORIGINAL STORY – Mountain Party candidate for governor, Bob Henry Baber and his two youngest children have been injured in a crash on Interstate 79.

Baber was driving to Pittsburgh to catch a flight Thursday when the rear end of a tractor-trailer attempting to pass struck the vehicle and pushed it into the guardrail.

The extent of injuries to Baber and his children are not immediately known.

State Police Trooper First Class J.G. Baker says Baber reported the hit-and-run and the truck’s license plate by cell phone, then followed the driver while police issued an alert.

A trooper then stopped the trucker on Interstate 68.

44-year-old Scott Lunsford of Clarksville, Ga. was charged with failure to maintain control.

Baber, who serves as grant-writer and developer at Glenville State College, is a writer, politician, and environmentalist.

Mtn Party’s Baber objects to exclusion from debate

A third-party candidate for governor in West Virginia is standing firm in his objection to being excluded from a TV debate. The Mountain Party candidate says he is disappointed by the decision of the West Virginia Broadcasters Association.
Mountain Party candidate Bob Henry Baber says he stopped by Charleston’s Clay Center, site of Tuesday night’s debate, but was asked to leave what was described as a “private party.”

Baber says he considers the choice to exclude him, and other third party candidates, from the debate a matter of deciding for West Virginians which candidates they should hear.

“That is not what we, as Americans, believe in. We believe in letting everybody get up on their soapbox and say what they’re gonna say. We may not like it. We may disagree with it. We’re not gonna vote for ‘em, maybe but we want them to have that right.”

Michele Crist, Executive Director of the broadcasters’ association, told the Charleston Gazette, the debate is a “news event” and said the association has the right to produce an event and “design our own content.”

Other candidates criticize Tomblin, Maloney

by Ry Rivard

Daily Mail Capitol Reporter

Tom Hindman

Mountain Party candidate Bob Henry Baber says neither Tomblin or Maloney are capable of changing the state.

The Democratic and Republican candidates for governor are virtually indistinguishable, Mountain Party candidate Bob Henry Baber said Monday.

“Here in West Virginia, the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is minute,” Baber told the Daily Mail editorial board.

Baber’s said he’s not alone in thinking so. He cited the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, which endorsed Democrat acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin only after saying Tomblin and Republican Bill Maloney had “close similarities.”

“Tomblin says, ‘More jobs, lower taxes.’ Maloney says, ‘No, lower taxes, more jobs,’” Baber said. “These two gentleman are arguing over a public relations phrase that was thought up down here in some office, probably by Charles Ryan and Associates — how absurd.”

(The Charleston-based public relations firm does not appear to be involved in either man’s campaign.)

Independent candidate Marla Ingels, a Mason County native who works as a school counselor in Jackson County, also was interviewed by the editorial board.

Ingels said she had decided to run for public office for the first time after praying.

“I decided I was tired of the lesser of the two evils,” she said.

Baber, the former mayor of Richwood who used to be a registered Democrat, said part of the reason he entered the race was because the Democratic Party had “lost its heart and soul.”

“True Democrats of West Virginia are an endangered species,” he said. “Mr. Tomblin has a ‘D’ behind his name — he is no Democrat. He is no friend of the unions. He is no friend of the environment. He is no friend of the common person.

“He is a career politician who the governorship fell into his lap,” Baber said. “That’s the bottom line.”

Tomblin was propelled into office by a chain of events that began last year with the death of U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd. Then Gov. Joe Manchin ran for and won the right to serve out the rest of Byrd’s term. When Manchin vacated the Governor’s Office on Nov. 15, Tomblin began to act as governor by virtue of being the Senate president.

Since then, Tomblin has used the office and its trappings to raise his profile with voters, something that gave him quasi-incumbent status heading into the May 14 Democratic primary.

Baber called Maloney and Tomblin “Tweedledee and Tweedledumber,” though it wasn’t clear whom he saw as “Tweedledumber.”

Baber also complained that he, Ingels and the other third-party candidate were being excluded from a televised debate tonight, which will feature only Maloney and Tomblin.

Baber said the West Virginia Broadcasters Association’s decision to bar other candidates from the debate was “undemocratic and un-American.”

But Baber’s criticism of the state’s problems ran deep. He argued special interests had far too much say. He said neither Tomblin nor Maloney were capable of really changing the state and that neither man had significantly different visions for West Virginia.

Also, he noted the tone of the political ads in the race.

Other candidates criticize Tomblin, Maloney

The Democratic and Republican candidates for governor are virtually indistinguishable, Mountain Party candidate Bob Henry Baber said Monday.

“Here in West Virginia, the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is minute,” Baber told the Daily Mail editorial board.

Baber’s said he’s not alone in thinking so. He cited the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, which endorsed Democrat acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin only after saying Tomblin and Republican Bill Maloney had “close similarities.”

“Tomblin says, ‘More jobs, lower taxes.’ Maloney says, ‘No, lower taxes, more jobs,’” Baber said. “These two gentleman are arguing over a public relations phrase that was thought up down here in some office, probably by Charles Ryan and Associates — how absurd.”

(The Charleston-based public relations firm does not appear to be involved in either man’s campaign.)

Independent candidate Marla Ingels, a Mason County native who works as a school counselor in Jackson County, also was interviewed by the editorial board.

Ingels said she had decided to run for public office for the first time after praying.

“I decided I was tired of the lesser of the two evils,” she said.

Baber, the former mayor of Richwood who used to be a registered Democrat, said part of the reason he entered the race was because the Democratic Party had “lost its heart and soul.”

“True Democrats of West Virginia are an endangered species,” he said. “Mr. Tomblin has a ‘D’ behind his name — he is no Democrat. He is no friend of the unions. He is no friend of the environment. He is no friend of the common person.

“He is a career politician who the governorship fell into his lap,” Baber said. “That’s the bottom line.”

Tomblin was propelled into office by a chain of events that began last year with the death of U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd. Then Gov. Joe Manchin ran for and won the right to serve out the rest of Byrd’s term. When Manchin vacated the Governor’s Office on Nov. 15, Tomblin began to act as governor by virtue of being the Senate president.

Since then, Tomblin has used the office and its trappings to raise his profile with voters, something that gave him quasi-incumbent status heading into the May 14 Democratic primary.

Baber called Maloney and Tomblin “Tweedledee and Tweedledumber,” though it wasn’t clear whom he saw as “Tweedledumber.”

Baber also complained that he, Ingels and the other third-party candidate were being excluded from a televised debate tonight, which will feature only Maloney and Tomblin.

Baber said the West Virginia Broadcasters Association’s decision to bar other candidates from the debate was “undemocratic and un-American.”

But Baber’s criticism of the state’s problems ran deep. He argued special interests had far too much say. He said neither Tomblin nor Maloney were capable of really changing the state and that neither man had significantly different visions for West Virginia.

Also, he noted the tone of the political ads in the race.