WHEELING - U.S. Senate candidate John Raese believes the state and the nation can't afford two more years of "unchecked power" in the hands of President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Raese, a Republican businessman from Morgantown, strongly opposes the Democratic leadership's platforms, and his message is gaining traction in the state.
He has twice run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate - first in 1984, when he lost by three percentage points to then Gov. Jay Rockefeller, and in 2006, when he lost to the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.
This year has a different feel, though, Raese said.
"There's an anger in West Virginia and America, and it's not hard to see it," Raese said. "It's there. People are concerned and upset.
"A lot of my message has not changed in 26 years. I'm very conservative. I believe that smaller government is the best government. I think my message is resonating finally, and that there are a lot of people who echo that message."
He acknowledged that the support he is receiving isn't coming from traditional Republican sources, as organizations such as the U.S. and West Virginia chambers of commerce are supporting his opponent, Democrat Joe Manchin.
"Most of my support comes from Tea Party people, people in small business, and people working in coal mines in West Virginia," Raese said. "There are a lot of people issues that resonate in my corner.
"A lot of people like Joe Manchin as governor. But when you put federal issues before him, that's when they start scratching their heads. People don't want a rubber stamp, and that resonates with them."
Raese said he believes the Obama administration is pushing America toward socialism.
"We been waiting around to become France, and we've become France," Raese commented, noting socialism "doesn't work."
"If we don't change our direction in the next four years, the capital of our country might as well be Paris. That is scary."
The Sunday News-Register asked both Raese and Manchin for their views on questions ranging from the health care reform bill to the so-called Cap and Trade legislation to Social Security.
Raese said he would vote to repeal the federal health care reform law, as he believes states would do a better job in administering such a program.
"I would repeal 100 percent of everything," he said. "This is the worst piece of legislation that has ever come down the pike. It is unmitigated socialism at its worst.
"To put one-sixth of our economy into this scenario is beyond belief."
Raese contends that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to require citizens to have health insurance, and to then send an IRS agent to their home if they don't. Both provisions are contained within the new health care reform law.
"Where in the Constitution does it say you can do that?" he said, waving his pocket-sized copy of the Constitution in his left hand. "It doesn't.
"There are 20 different lawsuits to say it's unconstitutional. I think it's exceptionally unconstitutional, and that it also violates the 10th Amendment of our Constitution," which grants states those powers not explicitly granted to the federal government within the Constitution.
"I think by next year, that act will be repealed. When you look at the long list of what's before us, repeal of Obamacare is number one."
Raese calls himself a "federalist who believes in state rights."
"Couldn't states - local governments, hospitals, patients, doctors and administrators - have a better look than a centralized government?" he asked. "It's the way we used to operate things.
"I believe in local solutions. But when you're looking at health care in general, it's a problem because the federal government has gotten involved."
Raese said the secret ballot needs to remain for union certification votes. He also said the government has no place in dictating labor agreements.
"The single biggest problem area for freedom ... is when a man or woman is not granted the privacy to have a private ballot to see if they want union membership," Raese said. "I think it's catastrophic. I've never heard of anything like it. It's a violation of any right in the Constitution.
"But card check is more than just that. It also abolishes collective bargaining. It says, 'We will have a staff of union arbitrators come in and decide what you and I make.'
"Is that 'Big Brother' watching? Pretty amazing."
Raese said if elected, he would vote against cap and trade if it came before the Senate. He also said federal agencies do not have the constitutional authority to impose regulations not enacted by Congress.
"No, I don't support it," he said of cap and trade. "As we all know, it would be a death note to West Virginia.
"There would be 12,000 direct coal jobs affected, $1 billion lost in tax revenue and the destruction of 85 percent of the coal industry. How anybody could support anything like that is beyond me."
Raese continued that it is alarming to him "that we already have cap and trade in the state - Manchin's House Bill 103."
"It stipulates that all coal-fired power plants in 2025 will have to burn 25 percent less coal, and that it has to be replaced with something called 'renewable energy,'" he said. "And there is no definition as to what that renewable energy is."
Under House Bill 103, the state Public Service Commission would be charged with granting credits to business for every megawatt they help produce or save through renewable energy, Raese continued.
"I have done business all my life, and I've never had a credit - I don't know what those are," he said. "But I do know it's cap and trade 'West Virginia style' - 'Manchin style.'"
The state law also stipulates that of the 25 percent of energy that must come from sources other than coal, just 10 percent can come from natural gas, Raese noted.
"That is taking both natural resources we are abundantly supplied with in the state and limiting both of them," he said. "When government starts to micromanage the economy, that's the death of capitalism and free enterprise.
"That's what you're seeing in West Virginia, and I have a grave concern about that.
"When you are elected to the Senate, you have a constitutional duty to make sure all laws are in accordance with the Constitution. And my concern is, just where in the Constitution does it say you can't burn coal?"
Raese, who said he owns several large tracts of land in the state that could be developed for their natural gas reserves, said he largely opposes regulations on the drilling industry, as "these cripple economic progress."
He noted that in 2008, 285 bills were passed by Congress that contained 3,800 new regulations aimed at American business.
"I think we have too much regulation in this country right now," he said. "Some regulations are good - I'm not saying that they're all bad. But I have to again question the power that is leveled by Congress over these bureaucracies we have.
"Who governs these bureaucracies? I don't think that Congress can control half of them. And then when you put regulations on top of that, how are we supposed to be competitive in the United States today? I don't get it."
Raese points out that he has been an industrialist all of his adult life.
"And when you have the regulatory nightmare like we have in this country today ... it costs American business $1.2 trillion every year. When you look at this, it has put us behind the eight ball."
Raese said he would not support the federal FRAC act, which would place regulations on the drilling industry.
"I believe in capitalism, and the cornerstones of capitalism are two things," Raese said. "The first is private property, and the second is energy.
"When I have a piece of property, that is my asset and it belongs to me or to somebody who has the ability and authority to mine or drill under it. We should give them the ability to do that.
"Energy is the lifeblood of capitalism. If we don't get the energy, we don't get the productivity - and we're through. To put regulations on private property ... you can see the bailiwick we just got ourselves into. That is the death of capitalism."
Raese doesn't just want to extend the tax cuts instituted by former President George W. Bush. He wants to make them permanent.
"This is about more than just the Bush tax cuts," he said. "There are capital gains tax cuts. But most importantly, there is the death tax - and the abolishment of the death tax is what I'm for."
Calling the death tax "the cruelest tax of all," Raese noted that it destroys small businesses and farmers.
"You are penalized in this country for being too successful," he said, "and that's the death tax. Right now it is at zero, but next year it goes up to 55 percent.
"If we make a real good effort to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, the death tax goes away."
Raese says no, as he believes education decisions are best made at the local level, and he is opposed to federal policies being imposed on the neighborhood classroom.
"I'm an advocate of abolishing the Department of Education," he said. "It came into existence in the Carter years, so it hasn't been with us that long."
He pointed out that Manchin was a member of the West Virginia Senate when the state Legislature voted to accept the policies of the U.S. Department of Education in 1996.
"Today, we have watched federal government give us outcome-based education and 'No Child Left Behind.' Failure, failure, failure. And we keep dumping money into it."
The Department of Education costs taxpayers $52 billion a year "just to keep going," and that doesn't include education funding bills, Raese continued.
"Let's just say if each state got $1 billion," he said. "Would we be more successful with our local schools? Local parents? Local teachers? Local PTAs?
"Let's quit centralizing education, and let's bring back local education. There is a lot of money that can be saved, because (the federal) agency is no more than a redundancy. It hasn't worked. It has never worked. But we keep funneling money to it."
He said there are educators who share his beliefs.
"A lot of teachers in West Virginia agree with me that they would like the shackles taken off their arms, their hands and their minds, and to have the opportunity to teach what they want. Get the federal government out."
Raese said he would propose legislation that would permit citizens who wish to give back their Social Security checks the opportunity to do just that. He also would call for drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with proceeds from a severance tax on that drilling to be put toward Social Security.
"Social Security was never supposed to be your entire retirement fund," Raese commented. "It was supposed to supplement it. I think we need an image change.
"I would like to introduce a voluntary act to give my Social Security check back to the federal government. Not only would this be for deficit reduction, but to reduce the debt that Social Security has accumulated."
Raese said he believes such a move would help to remake Washington's image.
"We have just had two years of a president who takes pride in running down the people in this country who are successful," he commented. "I resent it.
"I think it is time for a lot of us to stand up and say we have something to give back. I think there would be a cavalcade of people in my position who would do that. "
Raese also said he wants to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, then lease it to the public sector.
The initial result would be an additional 200 years of oil for the United States, he said.
"Then why not a severance tax?" he asked. "Take that money, and put it in a lock box for Social Security. What is better than to lower the price of petroleum, get people working again, and start rebuilding Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
"That is something I would like to work on. I think it's a doable goal."