State senate candidates show many differences

WOODSTOCK – Democrat April Moore and State Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg disagreed on every one of a long list of issues presented to them at a candidate’s forum Thursday night.

The candidates took turns spelling out their differences on campaign financing, economic development, Medicaid expansion, right to work laws, the cost of higher education, and climate change.

Obenshain cited low taxes, minimal regulation of businesses, opposition to creating jobs through government spending, maintaining Virginia as a right to work state and low tuition rates at public colleges as his main ideas for economic development.

“We need to stop balancing the budget on the backs of our students and their parents,” Obenshain said of college students. He added that he was opposed to Medicaid expansion and other programs that diverted state government from what he perceives as its main task of funding education, transportation, and public safety.

Moore described herself as “a friend of business,” after Obenshain mentioned she supported Bernie Sanders, the self-described socialist who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Moore said she supported Medicaid expansion, calling it a “no brainer” way of adding jobs in the health care professions and providing insurance for 400,000 people in the state currently unable to pay for medical care.

Moore also called on the state to spend more to reduce the cost of college tuition.

“In the long term, we need to invest in our young people,” Moore said.

Obenshain called Medicaid a “broken” program that imposed severe burdens on the finances in other states. He also called on colleges to do more to reduce expenses to lower tuition.

The candidates also clashed over the role of the coal industry in the state’s economy. Moore said she supported efforts to encourage the growth of alternative energy sources such as solar and wind.

Obenshain said he favored letting free markets determine the future of the coal industry and other energy sources.

Obenshain challenged Moore’s assertion that big businesses are using their campaign contributions to “steal” state government from the people. Obenshain said he believed voters would realize that money from outside the state was pouring in to help Democrats take over the state senate.

“When we talk about money in politics, let’s talk about George Soros,” Obenshain said, referring to a billionaire who has a history of spending for liberal candidates and causes.

Obenshain said he favored leaving the state’s gun laws as they are, but Moore said restrictions on assault weapons and other regulations are appropriate and would not hinder the right to own a gun.

“The whole idea that we can’t have restrictions on guns, I just don’t get it,” Moore said.

Moore, who has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO, said she was “not a fan” of right to work laws that allow workers to be hired in unionized workplaces without requiring them to join unions or pay union dues.

Obenshain said Virginia’s right to work law is a pillar of the state’s efforts to attract and retain businesses.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com