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THE governor's race only seems like it's between Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Republican challenger Bill Maloney. It should be about the elephant in the room.

Its name is poverty, and it has lived in West Virginia for many decades.

Democrats are comfortable with it. They hardly seem to notice it, and show no sense of urgency about getting rid of it.

That's a disservice to the West Virginians state government is supposed to serve.

The race should be about which candidate would most aggressively seek the changes that would make it easier to create prosperity instead.

The Daily Mail endorses Republican businessman Bill Maloney because he is most likely to do that.

To be fair, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who has been in government for most of his adult life, is one of the modern Democratic leaders who inherited a fiscal mess and have tried to fix it.

Tomblin was part of the workers compensation solution. Rates are competitive now.

Tomblin has also worked to stabilize the state's balance sheet, increase its reserves, improve its credit rating, and cut business taxes that have warded off businesses. The state hasn't had a general tax increase in 17 years, and it is zeroing out the hated food tax.

These are significant accomplishments, and business groups rightly value Tomblin for that progress.

But there are lines Democrats will not cross for fear of offending their allies - state employees, unions and plaintiffs' lawyers - and it shows.

The property tax on business equipment is not competitive, but will be hard to change. The legal climate could be improved, but Democrats balk at doing more.

This produces less investment and fewer opportunities for West Virginians, dependence, low teachers salaries, a degraded work force, outmigration, crumbling roads . . . The consequences are far-reaching.

Maloney would aggressively pursue better policies.

Tomblin's supporters want to "stay the course."

Maloney describes that course accurately: "We have an archaic tax code. We have the worst educational attainment in the nation. We're 50th in college graduation rate. We're 49th in job creation. We're 50th in legal climate. . . . We've lost 80,000 manufacturing jobs."

"We need to grow the [economic] pie. "We need less dependence, not more."

Very true. It's time to get the lead out and compete, as other states are. Maloney for governor. 


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