POINT PLEASANT — Mason County finds itself in a unique position on Election Day when voters will choose a new congressman though one of the candidates is an incumbent — just not an incumbent who has ever represented Mason County.
Mason County is currently in the Second Congressional District represented by Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (R). However, since the West Virginia Legislature passed its new congressional redistricting map, Mason County was moved to the Third Congressional District currently represented by Congressman Nick J. Rahall, II (D). Though an incumbent in the old version of his district, Rahall now finds himself in the position of introducing himself to the voters in Mason County as he and Republican challenger Rick Snuffer square off for a ticket to Washington, D.C.
This weekend, Rahall made a stop in Point Pleasant to participate in the Battle Days Parade and the opening of the county democratic headquarters. During his visit, Rahall spoke with the Point Pleasant Register about what it’s like being a new face in Mason County despite being an incumbent up for reelection.
Rahall said as he’s been traveling across Mason County meeting with who could be his new constituents, the number one topic of conversation brought to his attention is the completion of U.S. 35. Rahall said earlier in the week he’d spoken to Paul Mattox, secretary of transportation for the West Virginia Department of Transportation, about U.S. 35 to be brought up to speed on the current improvements to the existing road. Rahall is currently a ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in Congress which has broad jurisdiction over the nation’s highways, railways, airports, seaports, bus lines, and pipelines, as well as the Economic Development Administration, Appalachian Regional Commission, Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, and Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Rahall said if the Democrats regain control of the House, he will be the chairman of that committee regardless of who is in the White House and because of this, he believes he can “get things done” for Mason County. He said he believes he has the seniority and experience to take on projects like the completion of U.S. 35.
As the election draws closer, Rahall has also found himself in the middle of a campaign which has seen an onslaught of negative ads and accusations. Rahall said the ads that say West Virginia can’t count on him or that he doesn’t represent the state’s values, are simply not true.
The ads have also been tying Rahall to President Barack Obama who seems either a few points ahead or behind of Republican challenger Mitt Romney, depending on which national poll a voter reads. West Virginia, though a traditionally Democratic state, was won by Sen. John McCain (R) in the 2008 presidential election. All of which indicates the president’s popularity, or lack thereof with some voters, has become a campaign tool.
Rahall pointed out he has worked with six presidents and stressed he doesn’t work for but with a president for West Virginia’s best interests. He also said an ad saying he supported President Obama’s initiatives 94 percent of the time was done with selective numbers gathered early in the Obama administration.
When asked to explain where he differs with the president, Rahall said he disagreed with the Obama administration on issues like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “over reaching” regulations, calling some in the agency “zealots” and saying these regulations have hurt the coal industry which he believes is still very much a part of West Virginia’s future. He also said he has disagreed with the president on Cap and Trade, gay marriage and abortion, among other issues.
Rahall, who said he considers himself an “extreme moderate” who reaches across party lines to work with his congressional constituents, acknowledged the public’s frustration at Congress and “justly so” as he put it when talking about the partisanship which has swept through the aisles. Rahall said some members of Congress can be their own worst enemies, appearing, as he bluntly put it, like “bumbling idiots.” He said this unflattering spirit of partisanship, along with 24-hour political talk shows help the further polarization of the American people. In addition, he felt ruling the super pacs were legal opened the floodgates for unlimited, undisclosed amounts of negative campaign spending. All of this, he felt, has helped fuel current voter discontent.
As for more campaign stops in Mason County, Rahall said he would be back this week to tour M&G Polymers and ICL-IP America in the southern end of the county.