FOLLANSBEE - Congressman Alan Mollohan and his primary challenger - fellow Democrat Mike Oliverio - shook hands outside the Follansbee Community House Sunday.
Then it was if a bell rang inside to start their primary election match-up.
It was the first time both attended the same political event this election year - a "meet the candidates" forum at the Follansbee Community House sponsored by Brooke County Democratic Executive Committee and the county party's Federation of Women.
Mollohan, D-W.Va., will remain in Brooke County today, as he helps break the ground on a $10.2 million sewer project for which he obtained the funding.
"I believe it's the largest grant I've ever secured," he told the crowd.
Just prior to the event on Sunday, state Sen. Oliverio, D-Monongalia, released his tax returns for 2007 and 2008, and again called on Mollohan to do the same.
He also told the Democratic crowd in Follansbee he has requested and purchased a list of registered Democrat voters in West Virginia's 1st Congressional District, but has yet to receive them from the state Democratic Executive Committee.
He suggested Mollohan might have had some influence in his not obtaining the names.
Officials with the state Democratic Party were not available Sunday evening for a response.
Mollohan received a lengthy introduction from Follansbee Mayor Anthony Paesano, who read off a list of projects in Brooke County for which Mollohan has obtained federal dollars during his 28 years in the House.
Including the sewer line projects, the total on the amount of federal funding secured by Mollohan for Brooke County totals more than $13 million, according to Paesano.
Mollohan served as keynote speaker for the event, and spoke to the Democrats for about 30 minutes.
Oliverio, meanwhile, was granted five minutes to speak - the same given to county candidates at the event.
The challenger's tax returns show the joint adjusted gross income for he and his wife Melissa at $226,658 in 2008, and $158,230 in 2007. He added he will release his return for 2009 when it is complete.
Mollohan has indicated he will not release his tax returns, and that the 27 personal finance disclosure reports he has filed during 28 years in congress should suffice.
"I've asked for a debate, and he doesn't want to debate," Oliverio said. "A lot of people have questions about how Congressman Mollohan became a multi-millionaire, and accumulated this enormous wealth.
"I thought disclosing his income tax returns would give him the opportunity to explain."
Mollohan, the subject of a federal investigation that was dropped by investigators earlier this year, spoke in his own defense to the Follansbee crowd.
"I have never violated the public trust in my life," he said.
Mollohan continued on to say the federal investigation into his finances came about because of his role as ranking Democrat on the House Ethics Committee at the time of the 2006 election, and because he had offended top Republicans - such as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, and Karl Rove, senior adviser to former President George Bush.
At that time, Mollohan faced a re-election campaign against Republican Chris Wakim, a Wheeling resident.
"I don't want this election to mimic DeLay's and Wakim's smear policies of 2006," Mollohan told the crowd. "Folks really don't want this, either.
"They want us dealing with the hard issues facing our times," he said.