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Heated rhetoric and accusations in final days of a key state Senate race

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The race for the newly formed 7th District Senate seat in West Virginia has taken an ominous tone down the stretch. Incumbent Senator Ron Stollings is being challenged by former U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart.

Stuart makes no bones about where he stands and proudly claims the mantle of the right wing and the conservative ground in the race.

Mike Stuart

“I think we live in perilous times. I’m a conservative. If you want somebody on the far left you vote for my opponent. If you want someone who is conservative and consistent with the values of my district, then you vote for me,” Stuart said.

That district, is the newly drawn and encompasses parts of Logan, Lincoln, and Kanawha counties. It takes a wide swath of Kanawha County up the Kanawha River to the Fayette County line and west into the Tornado community. Senator Stollings is seeking a 5th term in the statehouse. He said he has no problem representing the people within the newly drawn boundaries.

“I have no problem with the district, but I will miss my friends in Wayne and Mingo counties,” he explained.

Stollings said he is willing to stand on his record of 16 years.

“I think I have a record of helping people. I’m a legitimate son of the coalfields. I’m from here. I’m not a corporate lawyer in downtown Charleston. I don’t live in South Charleston. I live in Madison, West Virginia,” Stollings said. “I think people know how hard I’ve worked in the Senate where I’ve missed about five roll call votes in 16 years and that was while I was out of town and then how hard I’ve worked in the community trying to help poor people. Trying to help kids get a good education and provide good, high quality primary healthcare to a region that is underserved.”

Until recently the race had largely been about the two candidates standing on their past records, but in more recent days it has taken a negative turn. In radio ads, the Stollings campaign accused Stuart of being anti-police.

Ron Stollings

“In years past he criticized the Legislature for giving Troopers payraises and he spoke against expanding healthcare and Medicaid populations,” Stollings said.

Stuart, the former federal prosecutor, bristled at the notion he’s anti-police.

“My license plate on my vehicle is ‘Back the Blue 001’ It’s unfortunate that my opponent has stooped to not only what is clearly false, and I don’t like to use the term ‘lying’ but clearly he’s lying. It doesn’t bother me that he’s gone that direction, because it reaffirms what we know and that is that we are winning this race,” Stuart said.

But Stuart had his own shots for Stollings, claiming the purchase of more than 70 acres of property near the Hobet Mine site, which is now under commercial development, was a sweetheart deal.

“I think he just doesn’t want to talk about the insider deal he had for the property he bought at the Hobet site. He owns 77 acres of property and pays a total of $60 a year in taxes. It was insider trading, it should have been disclosed, and the media didn’t do their work on this deal,” Stuart claimed.

But Stollings said the property was purchased from a woman at the local hospital many years ago who was desperate for money.

“It’s not a strategic piece of land. I bought it site unseen, not to get rich, but go help this lady out,” Stollings explained.

He said the land is grown over, extremely steep, and eight miles from the nearest development work on the Hobet site.

The winner in Tuesday’s election wins a four-year term in the Senate.