MORGANTOWN, W.Va.—Three Democrats, including two from the Eastern Panhandle, eyeing West Virginia’s 2nd District congressional seat said the Republican who’s controlled it for 12 years is out of touch, elitist and vulnerable to defeat this fall even if she overcomes a primary challenge May 8.
Democrats William McCann, Howard Swint and Dugald Brown each expect to face incumbent Rep. Shelley Moore Capito in the general election. But they said they can beat the state’s most formidable GOP candidate because voters have grown weary of economic problems, government gridlock and the partisan blame game.
Del. Jonathan Miller, R-Berkeley, is running against Capito in the Republican primary.
Only Swint has experience running a campaign. He lost the nomination for the 2nd District seat to Erik Wells in 2004 and to Bob Wise in 1996. McCann and Brown are political newcomers.
Swint, an advocate of tax law and campaign finance reform, said Capito and her colleagues on the House Financial Services Committee “failed the American people terribly” and “slept through” events leading to the Great Recession.
At best, they failed to prevent it, Swint said. At worst, some might have profited as companies laid off thousands of workers and thousands of homes went into foreclosure.
“When the crisis hit, they ran to the exits and dumped their stocks,” he said. Swint also criticized the bailout money that went to banks deemed “too big to fail.”
“The House Financial Services Committee members and the too-big-to-fail banks profited and became wealthier while the rest of us are still paying for their mistakes,” he said.
Capito, however, said she voted against bank bailouts, while supporting legislation that held Wall Street more accountable and gave consumers more protection from banks and credit card companies.
McCann, a blue-collar worker who said he understands the plight of the working class, said concern about fiscal integrity and responsibility in Congress are driving many voters this year.
“Everybody feels like their money is wasted — and it is,” said McCann, who supports a tax system that’s proportionate to income and tax incentives for corporations only when they make products in the U.S.
McCann is thrilled to see two other Democrats in the primary and said the abundance of people willing to challenge Capito signals a growing discontent with the status quo.
“West Virginia ... needs representatives in Congress that are in touch with the people,” he said, “and I think a lot of the people in there are just elitist and self-serving.”
McCann also faulted Capito for too often voting along party lines.
“That doesn’t allow for any compromise,” he said.
For 12 years, McCann said, West Virginians have struggled with job losses, rising fuel prices and other problems.
“The people who are in there and have been in there for a long time aren’t doing enough to go in the other direction and help America prosper,” he said.
Brown, meanwhile, said Capito is out of touch with the needs of average people back home.
About 20 percent of those who live in the 2nd District rely on Medicaid and Medicare, he said, yet Capito has backed budget plans that would effectively eliminate them.
Capito has called her votes a conversation starter about programs that are currently unsustainable.
Brown, who also supports universal health care, said government programs must be managed efficiently, but it’s essential the nation offers a “social safety net.”
“Sudden, massive program cuts will do more harm than good,” he said.
Brown said he’s met more than 1,200 constituents while campaigning across the Eastern Panhandle, and many 2nd District voters feel ignored and unheard.
“I want this district to have a representative who will be out and available everywhere, not just in Charleston and not just in Washington,” he says. “I will be responsive and give the district what they’ve been missing for the last 12 years.”