May 1, 2010W.Va. Tea Party hopes to sway 1st District raceWest Virginia's Tea Party movement wants a say in which Republican candidate gets the primary nod to challenge for the 1st Congressional District seat now held by Democratic Rep. Alan Mollohan.By Lawrence MessinaThe Associated PressCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's Tea Party movement wants a say in which Republican candidate gets the primary nod to challenge for the 1st Congressional District seat now held by Democratic Rep. Alan Mollohan.That race may be the state's highest-profile contest this year where Tea Party members could prove an influence. The movement has groups scattered around the district that have held candidate forums, rallies and other events. The gatherings have, at times, drawn hundreds of potential voters, along with most, if not all, of the race's six GOP hopefuls.The issues touted by the groups' leaders reflect those embraced by the movement nationally: they denounce passage of federal health-care legislation, oppose the Obama administration's attempt at "cap and trade,'' and decry the surging of the federal budget deficit and debt."We advocate preservation of God and constitution and family values,'' said Sandra Staats, director of the Parkersburg Tea Party.To the movement, the 66-year-old Mollohan is an ideal target. Seeking a 15th term, Mollohan helped pass health-care reform and pursues the sorts of federal earmarks that fiscal hawks denounce. And while he voted against the bill meant to address carbon emissions, opponents argue he entered that fight late and has failed to support West Virginia's coal industry."It's pretty much a uniform feeling among our people that Mollohan has to go,'' said Ryan Kennedy, co-founder of the North Central West Virginia Tea Party.Kennedy said a number of his members have gravitated toward Morgantown developer Andrew "Mac'' Warner and Wood County businessman Tom Stark.Former GOP chairman and state lawmaker Dave McKinley and Sarah Miner, also a former legislator, have their supporters within the group as well, Kennedy said. As a result, the group has not endorsed a single candidate.Kennedy added that his group has endorsed state Sen. Mike Oliverio, Mollohan's challenger in the May 11 Democratic primary. Many of his group's members are Democrats or independents who plan to vote in that open primary, he said, noting a recent radio appearance by Oliverio."He said a lot of things that probably would be very welcome at a Tea Party rally,'' said Kennedy, a Clarksburg lawyer.Staats said most Parkersburg Tea Party members favor Warner. While Stark and fellow Republican Patty Levenson and Cindy Hall have campaigned as outsiders, they have not resonated with members as Warner has, she said.May 1, 2010W.Va. Tea Party hopes to sway 1st District raceWest Virginia's Tea Party movement wants a say in which Republican candidate gets the primary nod to challenge for the 1st Congressional District seat now held by Democratic Rep. Alan Mollohan."We call him the people's choice,'' Staats said. "He doesn't have the money and he's not a politician, and he's running against people who have a lot of money and are politicians.''Warner had raised $165,700 and spent $148,000 of that as of April 21, leaving him with $17,677 three weeks before the primary. But the 55-year-old married father of four has also been beset by the woes of the family's development business, which has been in bankruptcy and at odds with Morgantown officials over its rental-housing holdings.A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he has campaigned on his term as an Army officer as well.The race's money leader has been McKinley, who has raised or given his campaign nearly $555,000. He's also racked up endorsements from the Ogden Newspapers chain as well as National Right to Life and its in-state counterpart, among other groups.And with the primary still weeks away, the National Republican Congressional Committee anointed McKinley as its choice months ago. But Staats said her members consider him the sort of career politician they oppose."They think he's pretty much the same as Mollohan,'' she said. "He's not the one who has the backing of the tea parties, at least here in Parkersburg.''McKinley earned howls at a mid-March candidate forum held by the Wheeling-area Tea Party, when he was the only candidate present who would not pledge to read every bill before any votes. While some applauded his explanation, which cited his experience in the Legislature, other candidates earned louder cheers for challenging his response."He got slammed for it,'' Staats said.As perhaps evidence of Tea Party influence, McKinley issued a five-point plan for "congressional reform'' three days after that forum, which included posting each bill online at least 72 hours before a vote.In a statement, McKinley cited Warner's business troubles to question support of his candidacy by Parkersburg Tea Party members. He also called the group "very anti-coal,'' referring to a February forum it held on the mountaintop removal method of mining."I was also pleased to be the only congressional candidate to speak at the Morgantown Tax Day Tea Party event and was greatly encouraged by the response of the crowd,'' McKinley said. "I also attended the Wheeling Tax Day Tea Party and had a great reception as I went through the crowd.''http://wvgazette.com/News/201005010342?page=1&build=cacheAssociated Press deliberately left the part out, where I clearly stated that Parkersburg Tea Party does not endorse candidates.Candidate David McKinley calls us "anticoal" because of one educational seminar. We try to have open minds and listen to all views.Candidate Tom Stark tells the public that the Parkersburg Tea Party has been taken over.Gee, you would think we were running for congress, by all the mud being slung at us!We must be doing something right!