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Column: W.Va. Gubernatorial Debate: A vague mess

From The Daily Athenaeum:

By Brandon Ridgely

Speaking for millennials, the televised debate Tuesday night gave us little reason to get excited about either candidate for governor of West Virginia.

Both candidates, Liutenant Governor of West Virginia Bill Cole and businessman Jim Justice, took predictable paths when it came to party lines. But worse, there was little to no effort to encourage anyone under 25 to vote. This is a shame, as West Virginian 18-24 year olds had the worst voting record of any age group in any state in the country last presidential election.

We’re the low hanging fruit of this election.

What about brain drain? What about student debt? What about promise scholarships?

Not really mentioned.

For the topics of interest to millennials, there were very few specifics.

Take the legalization of marijuana for example. When the issue finally came up, both candidates had very weak responses, one based on an incorrect fact.

Cole outlined the positives of medical marijuana, citing the pain his mother experienced before her recent death. Then he went from calling it “medical marijuana” to “legalized pot,” something he adamantly opposes. Cole calls it a “proven gateway drug” that would “open a can of worms, and that would be terrible.” He went on to reinforce his argument with incorrect data, saying in Colorado after legalization, “there was a terrible unintended side effect, a huge increase in DUI’s.” In reality, vehicle-related fatalities from 2011-2013 in Colorado actually went down.

Justice didn’t handle the issue of marijuana much better. He started with strong advice, “I think again we need to listen to someone other than our politicians.” Then went on with strong anti-drug rhetoric, transitioning to our state’s drug problem instead. Justice cited the horrendous fact that 60% of the umbilical cords of newborns in our state are laced with drugs.

When he got back on topic, Justice noted that Colorado made more than $150 million dollars through legalization, but said “it’s not going to get us out of our economic mess.” Adding, “I don’t think it’s going to bring us this revenue (compared to Colorado).”

Perhaps the most troubling thing Justice said is that this is an issue to deal with in the future. “It’s not for me today.”

Millennials watching thought, “okay Jim, voting is not for me today either.”

The other topic which may have lured us to the polls is statewide broadband access. Both agreed we need it. But Cole’s strange solution was to bring the parties together and lock them in a room, saying “the private sector will come up with a solution.”

Justice responded, “I’m just buffooned.” (And so were we.)

He said locking them in a room is actually a good proposal, but that it should’ve been done day one of Cole’s term. “You were in charge, you have got to move. I absolutely think we have wasted time.”

Is locking people in a room the official solution to broadband in our state?

Without specifics, without discussing issues that affect us, how can these candidates expect us to be motivated to vote?

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