As Republican and Democratic parties do battle to gain control of the U.S. Senate in the midterm election on Nov. 6, part of the spotlight will be on West Virginia.
Democrats, hoping to wrest control of the Senate away from Republicans, want incumbent U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin to be re-elected. Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have been working hard for Patrick Morrisey, the state's current attorney general, in hopes he can prevail and help protect the current GOP majority.
While that national balance may be a factor for many Mountain State voters, they should put their focus on this question: Which candidate will do best by West Virginians?
The answer, in our opinion, is Manchin. That's the same answer West Virginians have given on many occasions when they elected him as a delegate, a state senator, secretary of state, governor twice and U.S. senator twice - usually by large margins. Clearly, a majority of the state's voters have felt that Manchin looks out for their interests. He continues to do that today.
Health care? Manchin has acknowledged that the Affordable Care Act needs some fixes and has declared he's eager to work with his colleagues to develop those. But he has opposed simply repealing the ACA without having a workable plan in place. Certainly, that's the best stance for West Virginians. The ACA and the accompanying Medicaid expansion in the state means that about 200,000 more people now have coverage than did a few years ago. That also means those now on Medicaid who have become addicted to drugs can get help covering the expenses of recovery treatment.
Mountain State residents also benefit from some other key provisions of the ACA, including coverage for pre-existing conditions and the ability to have their children up to 26 years of age covered. If the ACA goes away, will those protections still be around?
Morrisey, in contrast, says the Affordable Care Act should be repealed, and he this year joined a lawsuit seeking to have the ACA struck down. Also, keep in mind that proposals the Republicans advanced last year to replace the ACA would have left tens of millions of people without insurance coverage, according to analyses by the Congressional Budget Office.
Manchin also fought to have health benefits for retired miners protected, and he continues to seek a way to preserve coal miners' pensions after their employers went bankrupt and sought to eliminate them. He also has advocated for continued efforts to combat black lung disease, for the coal industry as a whole, and to provide training for out-of-work miners.
He's also sponsored various job fairs aimed at hooking up employers and people looking for employment.
Morrisey, a New Jersey native who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in that state before moving to West Virginia in 2006, doesn't appear to be so protective of West Virginians. Besides advocating for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, he has joined with other Republican officials petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to do away with protections for workers fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, which could have an impact on thousands of Mountain State residents.
Although Morrisey wants to "blow up" Washington, according to one of his campaign ads, folks should remember that for several years he was part of the Washington scene as a lobbyist. Among those he was paid to advocate for were the big pharmaceutical companies - some of the same companies who shipped millions of pills to West Virginia and contributed to the opioid epidemic that hit the state over the last decade or more.
Manchin has his critics over various positions he has taken. For example, many women were upset with his vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Many Democrats consider him a Democrat in name only because of his relatively moderate views and his support of many proposals from President Donald Trump or his Republican counterparts. But people bearing those concerns should realize that the alternative in this race, Morrisey, has declared himself "100 percent" behind Trump.
If you're looking for the candidate who will best serve West Virginians, Manchin is the clear choice.