West Virginia Dem Governor Hopefuls Clash in 1st Debate

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – For the first – and likely only – time, the three Democratic candidates in West Virginia’s open governor’s race have sparred on the same debate stage.

Billionaire businessman Jim Justice, ex-U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and state Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler participated in Saturday’s 50-minute debate.

Justice, who passed on previous forums, asked voters to trust his job-creation abilities.

Kessler said he’s a true Democrat and called for higher tobacco taxes to refuel infrastructure and other needs in the cash-strapped state.

Goodwin called for a retraining of coal miners and a push to put them to work on infrastructure projects.

It’s a critical race for a historically conservative Democratic state that has surged Republican.

Senate President Bill Cole is uncontested in the Republican primary.

Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is hitting his two-consecutive term limit.