Manchin, Morrisey Meet Face to Face in U.S. Senate Debate

Contentious Senate Race Is in the Home Stretch

Democrat U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, left, and Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, center, debate Thursday in Morgantown. Hoppy Kercheval of WV MetroNews, right, moderates the debate. Photo Provided

MORGANTOWN — With just five days before the general election, the Democratic and Republican candidates for U.S. Senate finally had their only face-to-face debate on the issues of the day.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Republican state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey met in Morgantown for their one and only debate before Tuesday’s general election.

The candidates were asked about the tone of political discourse in light of recent news about mailed bombs to prominent officials and a shooting at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh. With both candidates going negative in last days of the campaign, Manchin and Morrisey agreed both political sides need to come together.

“We can have civil debates,” Manchin said. “We set an example…words mean something.”

“We always have to, as candidates for office, have to reject violence in all forms,” Morrisey agreed.

From there, however, the agreements stopped. Both candidates were asked about Amendment 1, which would amend the West Virginia Constitution to say “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.” Manchin said he would be against the amendment since it does not include protections for rape, incest or the well-being of the mother.

“If it doesn’t have that in there, then no because it does not have the exception, which most pro-life West Virginians agree with,” Manchin said.

“This is another example of a dishonest Washington liberal who is talking about an issue,” Morrisey responded. “I’m clearly for Amendment 1. I oppose taxpayer funding of abortion.”

Turning to prescription drugs, the candidates were asked about an alleged $35 million settlement between the state and drug distributor McKesson for its role in shipping millions of hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to southern West Virginia between 2006 and 2014, contributing to the state’s opioid problem.

“It would be a horrible deal for the state of West Virginia and I was able to stop Morrisey from making the deal,” Manchin said.

Manchin held a press conference last week announcing the alleged settlement. The Attorney General’s Office denied any such deal existed.

“Manchin is lying about this issue,” Morrisey said. “He’s just pushing information out to hide his record.”

Morrisey then accused Manchin of benefiting from cash from Mylan Pharmaceuticals. His daughter, Heather Bresch, is the CEO of Mylan, which saw the prices for EpiPen skyrocket 400 percent in 2016.

“He is the largest recipient of Mylan cash and he defends them,” Morrisey said. “It’s outrageous.”

Moderator Hoppy Kercheval asked Morrisey about a lawsuit he joined on behalf of West Virginia and 20 other state attorneys general that would overturn the Affordable Care Act. He was asked if he would concede that if that lawsuit is successful that it would eliminate coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions, as well as people on expanded Medicare.

“I support protecting people with pre-existing conditions. That’s critical,” Morrisey said. “What Sen. Manchin is trying to do is disguise his support for ObamaCare. Meanwhile, premiums are skyrocketing.”

“Make no mistake about it: they would be out,” Manchin said, talking about people with pre-existing decisions. “Just drop your lawsuit, Patrick. If you drop your lawsuit, we’re good.”

Manchin told Kercheval he would have voted against the Affordable Care Act had he been in the U.S. Senate at the time, but he would rather work to improve the law rather than throw it out.

“He doesn’t want to fix anything because you can’t blame anyone,” Manchin said referring to Morrisey and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. “For the first time, people are getting care.”

Questions turned to the subject of the controversial Rockwool insulation plant slated to be built in Jefferson County. Several citizens groups have protested its construction, raising concerns about air pollution from the plant. Morrisey and Manchin refused to make a statement one way or another.

“We’re going to keep looking to get to the bottom of it,” Morrisey said. “I’ll tell you what I’m not going to do. I’m not going to use this issue to ride both sides of the fence.”

“We don’t have the facts,” Manchin said.

On the topic of the middle class tax cuts, the candidates were asked whether the cuts were good when considering the rise of the national debt.

“I strongly support the Trump tax cuts because they’re good for West Virginia,” Morrisey said. “President Trump is dead right and you see our economy soaring.”

“Absolutely I would vote for it,” Manchin said when asked if the tax cuts should be permanent. “It should have been a tax cut for the middle class and a permanent tax cut.”

On the issue of illegal immigration, the candidates were asked if they support a pathway for citizenship for undocumented workers in the U.S., and if they support moving troops to the border with Mexico.

“I think the President is right not only to send the troops, but clamp down on the open borders policy,” Morrisey said. “We need real reforms in our immigration system.”

“I’ve been against sanctuary cities. I think we should do everything we can to secure the borders,” Manchin said. “We have to have walls. We have to use all our technology. We have to secure our ports.”

Manchin is seeking a second full term as senator. He won a special election in 2010 to replace the late Democrat Sen. Robert C. Byrd and won a full term in 2012. He is a former two-term governor and one-term secretary of state, as well as a former member of the West Virginia Legislature. He was challenged in the 2018 May Democratic primary by Paula Jean Swearengin, whom he defeated with 69.86 percent of the vote.

Manchin faces Morrisey on Tuesday. The two-term attorney general was one of six candidates in the Republican May primary, earning 34.9 percent of the vote. He was followed by former 3rd District Congressman Evan Jenkins with 29.21 percent and former coal baron Don Blankenship with 19.97 percent.

President Donald Trump and his surrogates have visited West Virginia multiple times the past two months stumping for Morrisey and other Republican congressional candidates in the state, including a stop in Wheeling. He will make his third campaign visit when he flies into Huntington Tri-State Airport this afternoon at 4 p.m.

According to recent polls, Manchin has a lead on Morrisey by a few percentage points.