By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Rick Snuffer believes Republicans and Democrats alike can do a better job of working together in Washington. And he’s asking voters in West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District to give him a chance to help facilitate positive change in Washington and back home in southern West Virginia.
Snuffer, a Republican who was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 2010, is now challenging veteran Democrat U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., in the 3rd Congressional District House race. Snuffer met last week with members of the Daily Telegraph’s editorial board where he addressed a number of concerns in the congressional district.
“I’m excited about the opportunity and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work for the people throughout the congressional district,” Snuffer said. “As a young boy, I lived in the free state of McDowell. I’m a Bluefield State grad. My mom is from Spanishburg. It will always have a big place in my heart.”
Snuffer said he was recently asked by a local resident why “everyone is upset with Congress?” His answer was simple.
“They haven’t done anything,” Snuffer said of Congress. “It’s been a one-upmanship. That’s why I stayed out of the 2008 cycle. There was a lot of anger, and I didn’t want to be a part of it. We try to express that in our television commercials and stuff. On the House floor, if I disagree with my colleagues, I try to do it in a cordial way. Judge (John R.) Frazier and I were able to work on a few issues together. He’s a great guy. We both had the interest of Mercer County together. You have to put your own political interests aside. Sometimes that didn’t make me too popular with my own party. I realize the state doesn’t stop at Beckley, and I know that’s been a big issue with people in our coal producing counties. If I can work together with a colleague, whether it is Morgan Griffith over in the 9th or someone else, I will.”
After 36 years of Rahall, Snuffer said voters in the 3rd Congressional District appear ready for change. If he can beat Rahall on Nov. 6, Snuffer said he will be in the majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives, and in a much better position to help counties in southern West Virginia.
“I can remember driving through here — Bluefield — and it was booming,” Snuffer said. “We have to protect our border counties — and this is a state legislator speaking and I know you are asking about Congress — but when a man can move his business down to Bluefield, Va., or to Pulaski, Va., or something like that — we have to make sure everyone is equal. Let’s face it. Our politicians have taken our votes for granted. Go drive through the 2nd Congressional District. They’ve got great roads. They’ve got businesses moving in. They’ve got investments. So what have they been doing that we aren’t doing? I think the matter is after being in office for 36 years, the congressman has taken us for granted. Anytime they want to close a college due to state funding, they talk about Bluefield State College. I don’t want to play regional, but I want to represent the people of southern West Virginia. But I think after 36 years you lose touch with your district. I believe in having relations with your district and understanding what their area needs. I don’t believe in building bridges that don’t’ have anything connected to them. Congressman Rahall has been on the transportation committee. But Shelley (Moore Capito) got a quarter of a million dollars for Corridor H. We got nothing. The Republican Party will be in the majority after this election. I will be in the majority party. We will win this election. They (the GOP majority) are going to be interested in Rick Snuffer getting re-elected. They understand we will need roads fixed and infrastructure. We need to get some federal dollars to come in here.”
Snuffer said it is frustrating to hear some say that there isn’t a war on coal.
“I would like them to look at the 3,500 southern West Virginias who in fact have been laid off and their families and tell them there is no war on coal,” Snuffer said. “The EPA is out to carry President Obama’s mandate. He said he would bankrupt anyone who would try to build a coal plant. He is one politician who has kept his promise.”
If President Obama is not-re-elected, and if the Republican Party can also regain control of the U.S. Senate, it will still take the Appalachian coalfields a good two years or longer to recover from the damage caused by the Obama administration, Snuffer said.
“There is definitely a war on coal and anybody who says there isn’t I don’t understand,” Snuffer said. “I will leave it at that. They are closing 67 coal-fired power plants. They are not converting those to natural gas. They are closing them. So there goes our electrical gird. If they bankrupt coal-fired power plants like the president has promised with this EPA that hates not only coal, but all fossil fuels, who are they going after next? Natural gas and fracking. They are going after the natural gas industry next. Our cost is going to go through the roof with our electricity. So we are facing a crisis. That’s the wrong track. We’ve got to change presidents. I think the people in the 3rd Congressional District realize we have to change congressmen who will support people above party interest.”
Snuffer was asked about the proposed Colonial Intermodal Center project in Bluefield, and whether he would support and seek additional federal funds for the project if elected on Nov. 6. Rahall secured $600,000 in federal funds in 2009 for the preliminary engineering and design of the project, but has yet to be able to secure the remaining $13 million needed to construct the actual intermodal center.
“I’m very familiar with the project, and I’m going to be political here,” Snuffer said. “Shelley (Moore Capito) got $60 million for Corridor H and the Congressman couldn’t get $13 million for something important for Bluefield. I would dare say it doesn’t matter what Rick Snuffer thinks about the Colonial Intermodal Center. What matters is what its city officials, leaders and citizens want.”
Snuffer said he is concerned about the growing movement by some in Congress to force Americans to use public transportation through such intermodal centers. However, if city leaders in Bluefield want to develop the Colonial Intermodal Center, and if the citizens of Bluefield support the project, Snuffer said he would actively fight for the $13 million needed to finish the project in the GOP-controlled House.
Snuffer was then asked whether he thought the Beckley VA Hospital was the reason Mercer County can’t get an outpatient veterans clinic — despite the fact that Princeton Community Hospital has offered an unused section of the hospital for such a development. Snuffer quickly replied, “It’s a turf battle.” He added he would support an outpatient or satellite clinic for Mercer County.
“It’s easy to quickly say yes,” Snuffer said. “How many dollars that are going to Beckley could get freed up to support this? We need to decentralize government. I’m a little bit selfish about military people. They paid a price a lot of us didn’t. ... Again it’s just a turf battle. I’m not saying this about the employees. I’ve been a volunteer at the Beckley VA. They care about the men and women. But you have to be decentralized. That is something an elected official should be able to be involved in. You’ve got one in Clarksburg, Martinsburg, Beckley and Huntington. There are four VA (clinics) in the state. I don’t think it would be to hard to find one or two more of those to staff.”
Snuffer said he would vote to repeal the new federal health care law. He appeared reluctant to describe it as “Obamacare,” adding it is not his intent to offend anyone. However, Snuffer said President Obama himself is now calling the Affordable Health Care Act “Obamacare.”
“It’s bad for seniors,” Snuffer said. “It’s bad for health care. It’s bad for our area. It’s a takeover by the federal government.”
Snuffer said Rahall admitted during a town hall meeting in Princeton that he voted to support the health care measure without reading the actual bill or legislation he voted for. Snuffer also compared the 15 unelected bureaucrats who will make decisions regarding future health care benefits under the new health care law to that of EPA administrator Lisa Jackson making decisions about the future of coal and natural gas.
“Rationing is built into the bill,” Snuffer said. “Our congressman said he signed it without reading it. He said that right down here. He signed it because he was told to. I read it. I found out what was in it. The number one thing that would get our economy moving again is to restore the $718 billion stolen from Medicare. Repeal the Obamacare bill. Piece it (new health care legislation) back together. You can’t take $718 billion from Medicare and tell us it’s good for health care.”
Snuffer said a second priority if elected is to reign in the EPA and protect coal. He said a third priority would be to start building roads, and repairing infrastructure, in the 3rd Congressional District.
“This is a congressman’s real job is to get roads,” Snuffer said. “You can’t build a road here, and a mile of road at Tolsia, and do two miles of road for Beckley. There is no plan. It’s playing politics. You’ve got to work with the other elected officials, whether it is Gov. Tomblin or whether it is the congressional delegation working as a whole, or the county commissioners. You have to say this what we need to do. I’m concerned that if we ever get the money what kind of shape this bridge (the King Coal Highway bridge in Bluefield) is going to be in. You talk about bridges to nowhere. That’s because there is no plan. It’s politics and it’s been going on for 36 years. We’ve got to be able to get the people in McDowell County a good road. If it’s the one to Beckley — and I’m not favoring Beckley — but it’s already halfway built. Maybe it is the most economic way.”
If elected, Snuffer said he would support a new six-year federal highway bill that would include federal funding for projects such as the King Coal Highway and Coalfields Expressway. He also says he would not sign the Groven Norquist pledge signed by many other Republicans that pledges to never raise taxes.
“I will not vote to raise taxes, but I will not sign his pledge,” Snuffer said. “Because his pledge has got rigged language.”
— Contact Charles Owens at email@example.com