CHARLES TOWN – Republican challenger Patrick Morrisey has vastly outspent his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Darrell McGraw, in his attempt to unseat the 20-year incumbent.
Morrisey, a local health care lawyer and lobbyist, has raised nearly half a million dollars – including large self-contributions – and spent more that $410,000, more than 10 times the amount spent by McGraw, who has raised about $180,000 but spent only $30,000 so far.
Morrisey has campaigned on the promise to reform an attorney general’s office that he argues has engaged in unethical practices, including doling out lucrative legal work to outside firms without a competitive bidding process and using “trinkets” emblazoned with McGraw’s name to raise his profile at taxpayers’ expense.
“We’ve made ethics reform a central part of this campaign because I was very disappointed at how the incumbent has been running his office,” Morrisey said. “And, as a result, we’ve put out a very detailed ethics plan to put out a positive message to the state that things are going to change in Charleston.
“More specifically, once I’m elected, I will push for a series of proposals to restore confidence in that office.”
Morrisey said his proposals include returning settlement money to the Legislature instead of diverting it to what he calls “McGraw’s pet projects,” ending the use of items like pill cases bearing McGraw’s name and instituting a competitive bidding process for outside legal work.
“Once I’m elected, we will also conduct an audit to determine how best to spend resources in the office of Attorney General,” Morrisey said. “Because so many dollars flow from these settlements that come in, there isn’t the type of detailed plan to ensure that all of West Virginia’s interests are put first.”
McGraw campaign manager Denise Tucker disputes Morrisey’s allegations, and points to McGraw’s record on consumer issues as a key strength in his record in office.
“He has protected our seniors. He has protected the consumers of West Virginia,” Tucker said. “When these larger corporations break the law in West Virginia, as the attorney general he has the duty to go after them and protect the consumers.
“He has a duty to educate the consumers of West Virginia and let them know what is available to them, and that he is there to protect them if they become victims. If our opponent knew how the attorney general’s office truly worked, he would know that.”
“His work product has been instrumental to bringing in over $2 billion to the state of West Virginia at no cost to the taxpayers, which in turn has helped the state to have a balanced budget,” Tucker said.
Tucker dismissed Morrisey as an outsider, pointing out that he did not become licensed to practice law in West Virginia until shortly before becoming a candidate.
“I don’t believe our opponent has any idea how the attorney general’s office works,” Tucker said. “He has never practiced law in West Virginia. He has never had a client in West Virginia.”
Morrisey dismisses the argument.
“This is a ridiculous assertion. The fact is that people in Jefferson County know me very well, because I have been living here since 2006 and have been very active in the community. Like many people in Jefferson County, I commuted to my job,” he said. “I have far stronger experience in West Virginia issues in certain issues, for example in health care. I have been a healthcare attorney for over 20 years. Darrell McGraw has made significant errors in the Medicare system, which will cost our state millions of dollars.”
Morrisey also points to McGraw’s refusal to engage in debates with him as a dereliction of his duty as an elected official.
“Darrell McGraw’s refusal to debate is an insult to the citizens of the state of West Virginia,” Morrisey said. “He has refused to debate his opponents for 20 years because he systematically uses taxpayer money to drive his name identification up. His whole goal is to get his name up high and prevent his opponent’s name from being mentioned at all.”
Tucker said debating would only give Morrisey a forum his candidacy doesn’t merit.
“If he can’t draw his own crowd, and can’t carry his own water, we are not going to give him a stage to do it on,” she said.
Tucker also accused Morrisey of engaging in misleading campaign advertising.
“Our opponent sent out a letter to folks, telling them the attorney general did not support Second Amendment rights, which is totally false. We have the endorsement of the NRA, with an A+ rating. Our opponent sent out a letter and bought a TV ad saying we did not support coal miners and coal workers, which is totally false. Now we have the endorsement of the United Mine Workers.”