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A GUIDE TO THE CONGRESSIONAL RACES: WEST VIRGINIA

6 minute read
TIME

WEST VIRGINIA

Population (1994): 1,822,000 (up 1.6% from 1990); 0.07% of U.S. total

Voting-age population: 1,389,000; 1994 turnout, 30%

Median age: 35.4 years

Median household income: $23,564 ($8,700 below U.S. median)

Unemployment: 8.0% (2.4% more than U.S average, March 1996)

Last presidential election: Clinton (D): 48% Bush (R): 35% Perot (I): 16%

Congressional delegation: Five Democrats, no Republicans

West Virginia is a poor state. At its most prosperous, coal was king. But as machines replaced miners, and the unemployed couldn’t find work, families left the state in droves. So many fled that after the 1990 Census, West Virginia lost a congressional district, leaving only three. Though the state economy is slowly rebuilding, the electorate remains solidly Democratic, testament to the strength of the party’s lower-class and labor-class roots: its voters haven’t elected a Republican Senator since 1956 or a Republican Congressman since 1980.

BETTY BURKS (R) SENATE CHALLENGER

BORN: Aug. 7, 1943, Eckman EDUCATION: McDowell Vocational Technical Institute, R.C.H.A., 1992 FAMILY: Husband Cecil; four children RELIGION: Pentecostal MILITARY: None OCCUPATION: Nursing assistant POLITICAL CAREER: None ADDRESS: Box 234, Kimball 24853. Tel.: 304-862-3011

Suspected by some in her own party of being a secret Rockefeller supporter–putting up a token challenge to the long-time incumbent–Burks claims that no one else wanted to run. Though Rockefeller may be “a good man,” she says, he has done nothing for her poor state. Burks says she has no money and no name recognition, but wants to win.

THE ISSUES Budget YES Medicare YES Defense NO Abortion YES Guns YES Gays YES Bosnia YES NAFTA NO Welfare YES National Service YES (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “People are tired of empty promises. I don’t know if I can [fulfill the promises], but I’d sure would like to try.”

JOHN ROCKEFELLER IV (D) JUNIOR SENATOR

BORN: June 18, 1937, New York City EDUCATION: Harvard U, B.A., 1961 FAMILY: Wife, Sharon Percy; four children RELIGION: Presbyterian MILITARY: None OCCUPATION: Public official POLITICAL CAREER: West Virginia House, 1967-69, Secretary of State, 1969-73, Governor, 1976-1984; U.S. Senate, 1984- ADDRESS: 245 Second Street, Northeast, Suite 300, Washington 20002. Tel.: 202-544-8073

Jay Rockefeller, a descendent of the oil baron, is in a good position to win a third term: few have heard of his challenger, and the G.O.P. hasn’t won a Senate race in West Virginia since 1956. A vocal supporter of the ill-fated Clinton health-care-reform plan, he would still like to guarantee medical coverage for every American. Rockefeller came to the state in 1964 as a VISTA volunteer and is a devoted advocate for children and family issues.

THE ISSUES

Budget NO Medicare YES Defense NO Abortion YES Guns YES Gays NO Bosnia NO NAFTA NO Welfare YES National Service YES (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “West Virginians have continued to remind me every day about never giving up, about the value of working hard, and about cherishing family.”

ALAN MOLLOHAN (D) District 1 (North–Wheeling; Parkersburg; Morgantown)

BORN: May 14, 1943, Fairmont EDUCATION: College of William and Mary, A.B., 1966; West Virginia U, J.D., 1970 FAMILY: Wife, Barbara; five children RELIGION: Baptist MILITARY: Army Reserve, 1970-83 OCCUPATION: Lawyer POLITICAL CAREER: U.S. House, 1982- ADDRESS: P.O. Box 1343, Fairmont 26555. Tel.: 304-292-7449

Mollohan had better not lose: he’s running unopposed. He succeeded his father in the seat in 1982, and works with Senator Robert Byrd to help get federal money to the state, including $1 million for the West Virginia High Technology Center Foundation and a new fbi fingerprinting center. A “Buy American” legislator, Mollohan is an energetic booster of local industry who, in theory, can’t lose.

THE ISSUES

Budget NO Medicare NO Defense NO Abortion YES Guns NO Gays YES Bosnia NO NAFTA NO Welfare NO Medical Leave YES (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “U.S. economic prosperity will largely be determined [by] our ability to develop and commercialize new technology.”

GREG MORRIS (R) District 2 (Center–Charleston; eastern Panhandle)

BORN: June 29, 1958, Elkins EDUCATION: West Virginia Wesleyan College, B.S., 1980; West Virginia U, M.B.A., 1987 FAMILY: Wife, Susan; three children RELIGION: Roman Catholic MILITARY: None OCCUPATION: Eyewear manufacturer POLITICAL CAREER: None ADDRESS: P.O. Box 1150, Martinsburg 25401. Tel.: 304-267-1527

Morris is a political newcomer running against a popular 14-year incumbent, but says Bob Wise has met only “token opposition.” Because the Second District has given Republican presidential candidates 53% of its votes since 1980, Morris says it’s time for a G.O.P. Congressman. Though he’s against Big Government, Morris calls for strengthening West Virginia’s aged infrastructure, implying that it might not be wise to send a Democrat to a House where the other party controls the purse strings.

THE ISSUES

Budget YES Medicare YES Defense YES Abortion YES Guns NO Gays YES Bosnia NO NAFTA NO Welfare YES Medical Leave NO (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “The way you create jobs is by growing the economy, not by growing the government.”

BOB WISE (D) District 2

BORN: Jan. 6, 1948, Washington EDUCATION: Duke U, B.A., 1970; Tulane U, J.D., 1975 FAMILY: Wife, Sandra; two children RELIGION: Episcopalian MILITARY: None OCCUPATION: Lawyer POLITICAL CAREER: West Virginia Senate, 1980-82; U.S. House, 1982- ADDRESS: P.O. Box 5336, Charleston 25361. Tel.: 304-344-8683

Wise’s message for West Virginia’s youth: Stay in school. In such a poor state, he says, education is the only way to escape poverty. The Congressman is a regular on West Virginia First, a TV show that encourages college graduates to bring their skills back home, and he has given every salary increase since taking office to scholarship funds at four West Virginia schools. That was seven terms ago, and his upbeat, positive attitude makes him the expected winner this race.

THE ISSUES

Budget NO Medicare NO Defense YES Abortion NO Guns NO Gays YES Bosnia YES NAFTA NO Welfare NO* Medical Leave YES (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “Declining incomes have to come up. The rising tide does lift all boats, but the tide has to start from the bottom, not from the top.”

NICK RAHALL II (D) District 3 (South–Huntington; Beckley)

BORN: May 20, 1949, Beckley EDUCATION: Duke U, B.A., 1971 FAMILY: Divorced; three children RELIGION: Presbyterian MILITARY: None OCCUPATION: Broadcasting executive; travel agent POLITICAL CAREER: U.S. House, 1976- ADDRESS: P.O. Box 64, Beckley 25802. Tel.: 703-379-6381

Rahall, one of the most popular vote getters in the state, is running unopposed for an 11th term. The Third is known for its coal, but automation has brought rampant unemployment, and black lung still plagues miners. Rahall votes with labor–he opposed NAFTA and gatt–and backed a revision of the 1872 Mining Law that would have forced mining companies to pay more to operate on public lands.

THE ISSUES

Budget NO Medicare NO Defense YES Abortion YES Guns NO Gays YES Bosnia NO NAFTA NO Welfare NO Medical Leave YES (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “I vote for an increase in the minimum wage because it will let American workers share in the gains of rising economies.”

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