"Steve Miller is a farmer, first and foremost," Douglass said in a statement released by the Miller campaign. "He is the only candidate in this race with a degree in agriculture and has honorably served as the assistant commissioner of agriculture for a number of years."
Helmick has insisted throughout the campaign that his bottled water is an "agricultural product," but says his experience as a businessman and state senator would be more important to the commissioner's office than farming experience.
Ward Wyatt, Leonhardt's campaign manager, acknowledged the photo with Douglass is not an official endorsement. He said Douglass' administration has been helpful in Leonhardt's campaign, however, answering any questions the candidate had about the agriculture department's budget and issues affecting the agency.
"There's no public endorsement on the commissioner's part, but he has certainly supported our efforts in anything we wanted to know about the role of the commissioner," Wyatt said.
When asked if the campaign was trying to make it look like Douglass endorsed Leonhardt, Wyatt said the photo actually shows Leonhardt's endorsement of Douglass.
"What I really want it to convey is Kent appreciates everything the commissioner has done in the interest of West Virginians," he said. "Drawing conclusions of an endorsement, that's up to whoever's looking at it."
Tom Susman, Helmick's campaign manager, said the photo strikes him as hypocritical.
"They say they want to change things, but then they want to marry the status quo. It's kind of contradictory, to be honest with you," he said.
He said Helmick also took a tour of the agriculture department's facilities earlier this year and met with Douglass. Susman said the campaign did not ask for Douglass's endorsement because Helmick "didn't want to put him on the spot" since the commissioner endorsed Miller in the primary.
Susman said Helmick and Douglass are friends, however, and have had a "good working relationship" during Helmick's time in the state Senate.
He said he's not concerned about the Republicans' use of the photo.
"They've got to run their campaign, and we've got to run our campaign," he said. "Gus is a great guy, and Gus will take his picture with any citizen that comes by."