WHEELING - Republican West Virginia gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney believes all state employees should be drug tested as a condition of employment, including public school teachers.
"In the private sector, most employers drug test their employees," he said. "My daughter just started her job in North Carolina as a teacher. She was drug-tested. We need to start doing things like that. We need to drug test teachers.
"How about welfare recipients?" he continued. "They all need drug testing. I mean, come on."
Creating more job opportunities in West Virginia is the key to curbing drug abuse, halting the overcrowding of prisons and increasing the state's tax base, all three candidates for governor said in Wheeling Wednesday night.
Maloney, Mountain Party Candidate Bob Henry Baber and acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, agreed the state must address the issue of illegal drugs to move forward.
"Building more prisons is not the answer" to prison overcrowding, Maloney told the crowd. "We need to push initiatives that will keep our kids in schools, give them opportunities, take the drugs away from them ... and I think a lot of our prison overcrowding problems will go down.
"Overall, what we need to do is improve the economy so there's hope out there so people will not go the criminal route," he added. "It seems some kids grow up in a culture where their dad and their granddad ... it's bred in them that you're going to be a drug dealer. And that's wrong. We've got to change that."
And the way to change that is "by opening up the economy, making it easier for people to be in business," continued Maloney, a businessman with a background in the drilling industry. He also suggested the establishment of more faith-based programs for youths that focus on the opportunities life can give them and why they should stay off drugs.
Tomblin said drug abuse - and the crimes and robberies that occur as a result of abusers needing money for their habit - is a primary problem in West Virginia.
"Those people who are hooked on drugs, they still need to have the opportunities to get the treatment they need to get their lives turned around and get back to being a productive citizen in West Virginia," Tomblin said.
"I'm for alternative sentencing," Baber said. "We're sending too many off to prison too early, too soon."
Baber is employed as a major gifts officer at Glenville State College, but he said that as a youth, he served jail time for a crime not related to drug use.
"I can tell you one thing, when you end up in prison you meet a lot of hard characters - and they can teach you a lot of tricks you don't need to learn," Baber said.
During the debate, the candidates also addressed the issue of labor unions in West Virginia, a state that presently has no collective bargaining for public employees.
Tomblin said rights and protections for state employees already are in place in West Virginia, while Baber indicated his support for labor unions. Maloney said collective bargaining isn't needed in the state.
The candidates all agreed West Virginia teachers should be paid higher salaries that are more competitive with those in other states.