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Campaign notebook: Maloney again unsure on Medicaid

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney stepped back slightly from the suggestion he would turn down federal money to expand the state Medicaid program to 130,000 West Virginians. Already, 420,000 West Virginians rely on the program.

In a Wednesday radio interview, Maloney declined to repeat comments he made Tuesday during a televised debate with Democrat Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

While Maloney expressed continued worry about making more West Virginians dependent on government programs, he declined three times to say what he would do about Medicaid.

"You talk about a political hot potato - we need more facts - and until we get Mr. Romney in there, get rid of President Obama, that would solve all these issues and we wouldn't have to worry about it," Maloney told MetroNews Talkine host Hoppy Kercheval.

On Tuesday, Maloney had been asked a similar question about expanding Medicaid.

"No, I don't think that's a good idea right now," he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court preserved much of the national health care reform law in a ruling earlier this year, but it also ruled states could opt out of a federal plan meant to expand Medicaid, the state and federally funded health care program for the poor.

Democrat Tomblin clearly sees the benefit of giving Medicaid to tens of thousands of uninsured West Virginians.

But he also has remained on the fence about a potential expansion. Even though the federal government is supposed to pick up most of the cost, Tomblin is worried about the tens of millions of dollars each year it will eventually cost the state.

His administration has delayed making decisions about how to shape health care reform measures in the state. Those decisions - or lack thereof - have prompted speculation he is delaying until after the election. Tomblin has said he is waiting on federal officials to answer questions.

On Thursday, the Maloney campaign said the country must elect Romney to try to repeal the whole national health care law.

"If we can repeal ObamaCare and take steps toward some common-sense health care reforms, we can improve the health of all West Virginians and not bankrupt our state," campaign manager Seth Wimer said in a statement.

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The Tomblin campaign says the governor's critical public statements about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney shouldn't be taken as signs of support for Democrat President Barack Obama.

"Is that the same Mitt Romney who was governor of Massachusetts who was standing there hammering the coal plant, saying it was killing people in Massachusetts?" Tomblin said during an editorial board meeting last week after Maloney had praised Romney.

Romney's publicly espoused view of the coal industry has evolved since he was the governor of the liberal state. Now, this state's coal executives and many miners are backing Romney because of their opposition to Obama's environmental policies, although the industry has continued to support Tomblin.

During the televised debate this week, Maloney had said one of the most important things West Virginians can do to look out for seniors' health care is to elect Romney. Again, Tomblin replied that he wasn't so sure that would help.

"I disagree with some of Mr. Romney positions on Social Security and Medicare as we know it in West Virginia," Tomblin said, repeating Democrat criticism of Republican plans that could change the nature of Medicare.

Tomblin campaign spokesman Chris Stadelman said the governor still has concerns about both Romney and Obama. Republicans have attacked Tomblin for failing to state a preference.

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The choice of a teachers union representative to lead the state's largest labor organization reflects the changing makeup of organized labor in the country and the state.

Josh Sword will replace long-time AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Larry Matheney. Sword is currently the political director for the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

Sword said Thursday he will be the first public employees union representative to hold either of the top spots in the state AFL-CIO, the umbrella organization for a family of unions that includes the AFT.

Matheney started as a mineworker and then became a steelworker. Current AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue is a second-generation sheet metal worker.

Sword said the teachers union's board sees the value of having someone with public sector experience in a leadership position at the AFL-CIO.


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