Love, War, and Politics

My home in Maryland is just across the Potomac River from West Virginia – I can see my neighboring state when I walk out of my front door and look to the left – where a U.S. Senate seat is up for grabs in the coming election. Well, only nominally up for grabs. There’s very little doubt about the winner: Republican Shelley Moore Capito, a well-regarded, moderate member of the House of Representatives from a district that abuts my Maryland congressional district.

Her opponent is Natalie Tennant, West Virginia’s secretary of state, a moderate Democrat with a good record in state government, who is getting little traction in the election to replace the venerable Democrat Jay Rockefeller. Capito is up by 23 points in the latest polling, which is quite consistent with how she has been running for months.

Because I often listen to West Virginia commercial radio as I work, if I didn’t know better, I’d think this election might have the conservatives spooked with only a month before election day. That’s because of all the radio ads (it’s a fairly inexpensive radio market) claiming all kinds of sins on Tennant’s part, paid for by outside groups such as the National Rifle Association and the Chamber of Commerce.

The anti-Tennant ads are over the top (Capito appears not to have any connection to them, to her credit), which suggests that the old saw about “all’s fair in love and war” should now be “all’s fair in love, war, and politics.” Groups opposing Tennant attempt to tie her to President Obama, who has popularity ratings in the state only slightly above influenza, and Michael Bloomberg (ditto).

The Chamber has reportedly spent $200,000 on anti-Tennant advertising, accusing her of being cozy with the “war-on-coal” folks at the EPA and the White House. Coal, of course, is still King in West Virginia and being tagged as “anti-coal” is the equivalent of being charged as in favor of infanticide.

Here’s the position from the Tennant web site: “I will fight President Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and anyone else who tries to undermine West Virginia coal jobs. I strongly oppose President Obama’s regulations on coal-fired power plants because they are based on technology that either does not exist, or is too expensive to implement without causing significant job losses or jeopardizing electricity reliability.

“I am pro-coal, pro-coal miner and pro-coal miner safety. The current gridlock in Washington has let down our miners. This is unacceptable. In the Senate I will fight tirelessly to keep our miners working and fight just as hard to keep them safe.” Ironically, the United Mine Workers of America staged a protest in Washington this week at the EPA headquarters against the Obama and EPA climate plan. Once reliably in the Democratic Party coalition (and a key part of the Rockefeller constituency), West Virginia coal miners are likely to vote against Tennant this year.

The NRA has spent $218,000 on anti-Tennant ads, according to the Associated Press, saying she favors restrictions on gun owners, because she supports background checks for sales at gun shows.

Here’s what her web site says: “Growing up on a farm, guns were an integral part of my life; from the first BB gun I shot, to hunting with my brothers, to carrying a muzzleloader as the first female WVU Mountaineer Mascot. My whole life there has never been a question of my support for the Second Amendment. Even now as Secretary of State, my muzzleloader is proudly displayed over my desk in the State Capitol.

“My husband is a Navy Reservist who served in Afghanistan and is qualified on a 9 MM Beretta and is a sharpshooter with the M4 assault rifle. We use Erik’s Beretta and my Smith &Wesson’s M&P Shield to teach our 11-year old daughter about safety, respect and understanding of firearms. So you see, I am like most West Virginians who pass on the tradition of responsibility that I learned to my daughter.” Doesn’t sound like Mike Bloomberg to me.

I have no dog in this fight. I can’t vote in West Virginia and if I could, I just might vote for Capito. But Tennant is a worthy candidate and I simply can’t tolerate the stomach-turning sliminess that now characterizes U.S. politics. Indeed, if I could vote in West Virginia, I just might not.