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Rahall, Jenkins trade jabs in Huntington debate

Herald-Dispatch photos by Sholten Singer Democrat Nick Rahall, left, emphasized his experience and seniority during a congressional debate Tuesday night in Huntington. Republican Evan Jenkins, right, told the audience at the Pullman Plaza Hotel that it was time to make a change in the 3rd District’s representation.
Herald-Dispatch photos by Sholten Singer
Democrat Nick Rahall, left, emphasized his experience and seniority during a congressional debate Tuesday night in Huntington. Republican Evan Jenkins, right, told the audience at the Pullman Plaza Hotel that it was time to make a change in the 3rd District’s representation.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Congressional candidates U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and state Sen. Evan Jenkins, R-Cabell, focused on allegiances as much as issues during their debate Tuesday night at the Pullman Plaza Hotel.

Jenkins trotted out the phrase “(President) Obama and (Speaker Nancy) Pelosi’s foot soldier” more than once in referring to Rahall, while the 38-year incumbent took plenty of opportunities to point out Jenkins’ party switch last year and referred to “billionaire Wall Street backers” time and again as Jenkins’ supporters.

More than 300 packed the hotel’s Grand Theater room for the event, sponsored by The Herald-Dispatch.

It has been no surprise that the race so far has focused on West Virginia’s ailing coal industry.

That form held during Tuesday’s exchange.

Both candidates have stated a heavy pro-coal agenda and have touted the topic as the number one issue facing the state in the Congressional race.

Jenkins attacked Rahall’s vote for a tax on carbon emissions and tied the incumbent to the Obama administration, under whom strict Environmental Protection Agency regulations have been enacted that would take several coal-fired plants offline and virtually prohibit the construction of new ones.

“We are a coal state. We have fueled America,” Jenkins said. “We have an explosion in the natural gas industry. We have a unique opportunity to lead this country to energy independence.

“But you can’t be pro-coal and vote for a carbon tax. You can’t be pro-coal and vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker six times.”

Rahall responded that he is pro-coal no matter who is in office as president…

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