WV-01: Extraneous Mud-Slinging Escalates With A Week Until Primaries
by Chuckie Corra, Tue May 04, 2010 at 05:35:02 AM EDT
In a rare challenge for his seat this early in the election year, Alan Mollohan (D-WV) is facing his first Democratic Primary opponent in almost 20 years. Mike Oliverio, a state senator from Morgantown, is challenging Mollohan and running on a platform that focuses attention on deficit reduction measures.
The race, up until the past week or two, has been relatively uneventful. In fact, I didn't even know Mollohan was facing a primary opponent until I saw a facebook ad for Oliverio in March. Taking an incumbent like Alan Mollohan on (who is approaching 28 years in Congress) is clearly a challenge. West Virginia adores incumbents. If you don't believe me then direct your attention towards Robert C. Byrd (D-WV). The longest serving Congressman in the legislative body's history is among one of the several incumbent Democrats who rarely face challenging opposition.
The Mollohan name is synonymous with the seat that he currently holds, as Alan Mollohan succeeded his father (Bob) after he had served 16 years in the same seat.
Mollohan's record of earmarking has come into question the past few years, but the charges initially brought by the Department of Justice have since been dropped. However, this doesn't leave Mollohan off the hook as Oliverio has chosen to air ads attacking the Congressman's record. Politico's Josh Krausharr recently reported this:
West Virginia Rep. Alan Mollohan's Democratic primary opponent is pulling no punches in the run-up to the May 11 election, airing an ad spotlighting Mollohan's ethics woes and accusing the congressman of "funnel[ing] millions of your tax dollars to his contributors and business partners."
In his ad, state Sen. Mike Oliverio cites a recent report from the good-government group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington that named Mollohan one of the most corrupt members of Congress.
Mollohan has not made his opinions regarding these ads a secret. His campaign manager, as well as him personally, issued statements denouncing the ads and criticizing Oliverio of not sticking to the real issues. This is where the squabble begins, and it wouldn't be politics without it.
"He's lying. He’s just straight out lying about me," Mollohan told MetroNews in a Monday phone interview. "When that happens you just have to take it on and call it what it is."
Mollohan says Oliverio should be talking about the issues, but instead he's digging up past allegations made by the Chris Wakim campaign in 2006.
"He's pretty well defining himself, not only his character with the kind of campaign he's running, but he's defining himself by his right wing policies," Mollohan said.
Oliverio says he's defined himself by serving 18 years in the state legislature. "Balancing budgets, educating children, delivering health care, the kinds of things people expect from an elected official. That's who I am," Oliverio said.
Of course, words were not enough to champion himself over Oliverio. Mollohan incorporated an ad of his own that criticized Oliverio's membership with The American Legislative Exchange Council. (WV Public Broadcasting)
Mollohan responded with an ad criticizing Oliverio’s relationship with the American Legislative Exchange Council.
According to its website, Oliverio is the co-state chair of the group. Mollohan describes the ALEC as right-wing.
ALEC has been a highly criticized organization by more left-wing pundits and bloggers for its ties to big tobacco lobbies and is claimed to be a right-wing favoring organization by some.
To make matters even more interesting, Oliverio challenged Alan Mollohan to a debate in early March to formally address issues.
"I've asked for a debate, and he doesn't want to debate," Oliverio said. "A lot of people have questions about how Congressman Mollohan became a multi-millionaire, and accumulated this enormous wealth.
Mollohan's response was this:
Mollohan has refused to debate Oliverio, which the senator calls a "display of arrogance." Mollohan says he may have agreed to a debate if it would have focused on the real issues of the First District.
The Democratic Primary is May 11 in West Virginia, a week from today, and this race only continues to get more interesting. Many across the state believe that Mollohan's days are numbered, while many still view Oliverio as more of a blue-dog Democrat unwilling to support a progressive agenda. I don't know how this race will turn out, but I'm excited to watch it happen.