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Political parties trade barbs

Lincoln-Douglas, this is not.

The state Democratic and Republican parties are firing salvos meant to taunt, bait or discredit each other's candidates in the U.S. Senate race. It's been tit-for-tat with a little bit of nana-nana-na-na taunting.

First, the Republican Party posted a doctored image of a milk cartoon with a picture of Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio on the side with the caption, "Where is Larry Puccio?"

"West Virginia Democrats are missing their leader," the post said. "Gov. Joe Manchin is missing a long-time family friend and employee. We need your help to find West Virginia Democrat Chair Larry Puccio."

The apparent goal: implying that Puccio, Manchin's former chief of staff, had gone into hiding following unconfirmed reports that he is mixed up in a federal investigation.

Republican Party Chairman Mike Stuart said in a statement, "Some folks think he has been kidnapped by subpoenas or even a grand jury."

Puccio, easily reached by phone Wednesday, said he's been traveling the state and meeting with fellow Democrats.

He said last week he was in Brooke and Ohio counties meeting Democratic supporters and at a ribbon cutting in Kanawha County where he was interviewed by a local television station. He also spoke to the Federation of Democratic Women in Flatwoods and attended a conference in Morgantown.

"That's what I see the chairman of the party doing," Puccio said. "I think I need to get in the car and meet and greet and talk and answer. I don't see my role sitting behind a desk at a computer firing out ridiculous negative attacks."

That would be a reference to Stuart, a Charleston lawyer who has been spearheading the Republicans' attacks since he became party chairman this summer.

The Democrats, for their part, this week attacked Republican Senate candidate John Raese for a contest started by his campaign. The contest will give $25 to the person in each county who can get the most letters to the editor about Raese published in newspapers.

The apparent goal: to suggest Raese, a wealthy industrialist, has to buy his friends.

Raese campaign manager Jim Dornan called the attack "more Mickey Mouse garbage from Obama's party of bad ideas."

Democratic Party executive director Derek Scarbro admitted it wasn't the most important thing in the world.

"I'm not saying it's the central issue of the campaign, but it certainly raises a red flag," he said.  "No one has ever done anything like this before. It just seems quite unusual, unethical and questionable at best."

The Raese flier also asks for volunteers who will take Election Day off and watch the polls to help prevent "Democrats stuffing ballots."

All polling locations have members of both parties tasked with working the polls and, Scarbro noted, campaign activity is prohibited near the voting booth.

"Campaigns can't be present within 300 feet of the polling place, yet he is encouraging people to be inside the polling place in each precinct, working in shifts and watching stuff," Scarbro said. "And that's just not permissible under West Virginia law."

Dornan replied, "Tell him to stop interpreting our fliers and worry about his own party."

He also turned the tables back to the federal investigation. Two state agencies have received subpoenas for records.

"People in glass houses shouldn't be throwing stones," Dornan said.

Finally (for now), Stuart issued another statement practically begging President Barack Obama to come campaign in West Virginia.

That would be a dream for Republicans, who are doing everything they can to tie Manchin, Democratic congressional candidates and even state lawmakers to the unpopular Democratic administration in Washington.

"We feel like West Virginia voters haven't had enough opportunities to truly meet this president and hear about all the things he has to offer - nationalized health care, the biggest tax increase in history, and doubling unemployment here," Stuart said.

So far no national Democrats have announced that they plan to campaign on behalf of West Virginia candidates. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said in a June interview with a Capitol Hill newspaper that it might be best if Obama stayed away from the state.

Instead, Rahall said he would like to see former President Bill Clinton come to campaign.

"He's a Southerner," Rahall said. "He gets down to the nitty-gritty, asking the personal questions that show a concern and care."

Scarbro said Stuart is welcome to talk to the White House but said the elections here are not about what Democrats are doing there.

"The Republicans want to make this about candidates from other states, and perhaps that's because their candidates don't have any record to run on," Scarbro said.

Contact writer Ry Rivard at or 304-348-1796.



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