CHARLESTON, W.Va. — All four major party candidates for governor of West Virginia appeared on the same stage Thursday to talk about economic development, the state budget and their visions for the state.
Former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, businessman Jim Justice, state Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler and state Senate President Bill Cole all spoke, separately, at the West Virginia Manufacturer’s Association convention at the Charleston Civic Center.
Goodwin, Justice and Kessler will face off in the Democratic primary in May, while Cole is unopposed and will be the Republican candidate in November.
Kessler, who has served in the state Senate for 19 years, spoke in detail of his legislative accomplishments and laid out a specific plan for state government that includes free or assisted community college and more drug treatment facilities, both funded by an increased tobacco tax.
“It takes an investment, it takes some money, but I can’t think of a better investment in the world than making sure a kid is productive,” he said.
Justice, who has never run for office, gave a speech without policy proposals, instead stressing his business success, love of West Virginia, ability to promote the state and electability.
“I’m a marketer. I’m a marketer in chief. That’s what I am. Really and truly,” Justice said. “Somebody’s got to sell us.”
Goodwin fell somewhere in between, touting a vision for the state based on rebuilding infrastructure and attracting new businesses by increasing quality of life to bring people to West Virginia.
“My thesis is that it’s not businesses that decide where to locate, it’s people that decide where to locate,” Goodwin said.
That’s a thesis that contrasted with Cole, who repeatedly stressed the importance of appealing directly to businesses and executives…