Maloney objects to ads labeling him as 'outsider'
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Attack ads on behalf of Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin quickly picked up this year where they left off last year: New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Georgia.
That's where Tomblin's campaign and the pro-Tomblin Democratic Governors Association say Republican challenger Bill Maloney, respectively, was born, incorporated a company, saw one of his company's jobs go to and then bought a retirement getaway in.
It's all meant to paint Maloney as an outsider, and most of it is open to interpretation.
"Contrary to popular belief, we're not in Pennsylvania," said Dee Jay Utt, one of Maloney's first employees.
When Utt said that, he was standing in a Morgantown shop yard where he has worked for the last quarter century.
Utt remembers his first day - Aug. 7, 1984. He was the second employee at North American Drillers, the company that Maloney co-founded.
The shop started on one piece of property in Morgantown and then moved a couple of years later to larger space just up the road, still in Morgantown. And, on Friday at least, it was still here in West Virginia.
But the Tomblin campaign and the Democratic governors group seized on what happened after Maloney sold his company, also known as Shaft Drillers International, in 2006. The new owners consolidated white-collar employees who were in several office complexes in 2011 and moved the corporate headquarters to Mt. Morris, Pa., which is about 20 miles from Morgantown.
"All they did was relocate their computers," Utt said.
He said people who worked for the company before still worked there after the move. They just commuted. Of course, West Virginia presumably lost some payroll tax revenue. But, Utt said, shop laborers still work in West Virginia.
"All the working people that actually started out with North American Drillers are still in West Virginia - all of them," Utt said.
But that's just one part of a multi-pronged effort to get voters to think of Maloney as an outsider.
Tomblin narrowly beat Maloney in a special election for a one-year term. Now, with four years on the ballot and a month to go before the election, the tactic has already been prominent in the Democrats' ads about the "Real Bill Maloney."
The Tomblin campaign and the association-backed "Opportunity West Virginia" political action committee released nearly identical commercials late last month. They start with Maloney's birth in New York. That's correct, though Maloney points out he was born in Syracuse, a mid-size town, and not Manhattan, which is shown in both ads.
"That's far from the Wall Street sign you've got in this ad," Maloney told Tomblin during a Daily Mail editorial board meeting last week.
Maloney is displeased with the ads. He said he's made a life for himself in this state, built a business and raised a family.
"You forgot I moved to Ohio when I was in second grade. That's not in the ad," Maloney told his opponent.
"We'll go back," Tomblin replied.
Both the ads also mentioned Delaware, where Maloney incorporated a company.
Companies are commonly based in Delaware to take advantage of that state's business-friendly tax and legal system.
Companies incorporated in Delaware that operate in other states can use that arrangement to reduce tax burdens. Maloney's campaign said his company paid nearly $1 million in West Virginia taxes from 2003 to 2006, which is the year he sold the company. He said he paid Delaware only a minimal registration fee and had not used that state to duck West Virginia taxes.
Republicans have portrayed the ads as hypocritical and somewhat xenophobic.
They note that Tomblin's wife is originally from New York, as is U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.
Walmart - West Virginia's largest employer - is incorporated in Delaware.
During the editorial board interview, Tomblin said he wanted to focus on the issues. Asked if Maloney's place of origin was an issue, the governor said he was born in Logan County, in the coalfields.
"I mean, I'm not afraid of the fact that - I'm pretty proud of the fact - that I was born and raised in the state, I think I've got a good feel of the way people in West Virginia feel about certain values, certain issues in the state," Tomblin said.
Maloney and his wife, Sharon, moved to West Virginia together more than three decades ago, and neither is keen on their portrayal in the ads.
The Maloney campaign released an ad Monday featuring Sharon, who said the couple struggled when the company was just getting off the ground.
In a recent interview, the Maloneys recalled their successive West Virginia homes - including trailers. It was no "steak and lobster" living, Sharon said.
"Where did we choose to live and where did we choose to stay?" she said during an interview at a Cheat Lake diner not far from the couple's home in West Virginia.
The ads also attack Maloney for owning a second home in a gated community in Georgia. Tomblin has a second home in a gated community in South Carolina.
Tomblin's home in South Carolina is apparently larger than Maloney's, although Maloney's second home is worth more and is in a more exclusive community.