This article originally provided by The Times WV

September 15, 2006

Starn accepts Blankenship’s contribution

House candidate said it doesn’t mean he completely agrees with Massey head’s views

By Bill Byrd
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — A Marion County Republican candidate for the House of Delegates said an early $1,000 campaign contribution from Massey Energy President Don Blankenship does not mean he agrees “100 percent” with Blankenship’s views.

Rick Starn, 53, a retired chief of the Fairmont Fire Department who is running for one of three seats in the 43rd House District, said he has no plans to return Blankenship’s donation.

Several GOP House candidates have either returned donations from Blankenship or have said they will not accept contributions from him.

“I’m the one running for office and people are supporting me” and his own views, Starn said. “Mr. Blankenship is not buying my vote, and none of my other contributors are either.”

He did not ask Blankenship for a contribution, he said.

Starn said he barely knows him.

“I met him at a dinner one time for maybe 10 or 15 seconds,” he said. Blankenship’s contribution came just before the May primary.

“Anyone who agrees with me on the issues, I’ll be glad to accept their contributions,” Starn said. “I would probably accept contributions from people who don’t agree with me.”

He has raised about $8,000. Wayne Stutler, who is also running for county commissioner on the GOP ticket, is Starn’s campaign treasurer.

Starn is a “pro-life, pro-family and pro-gun” candidate. He wants improvements in the state’s job climate and more efficiency in government.

“We need to work a little bit more on tort reform,” he said.

Caps on punitive damages, such as those that were adopted in medical malpractice cases, should be considered in other areas, he said.

Blankenship said in July he would spend his own money in an effort to win Republican control of the House of Delegates.

He has relaunched his “And for the Sake of the Kids” campaign. It played a key role in the 2004 defeat of state Supreme Court Justice Warren McGraw, a longtime Democratic officeholder.

State Democratic Party Chairman Nicholas Casey said later he expects Blankenship to distort votes by Democrats on cultural issues.

Blankenship will use the “God, guns and gays” platform used by the national GOP, Casey said.

He said he expects Blankenship to distort four votes:

• Parental notification when a minor girl gets an abortion. The charge will be that Democrats voted to allow “secret abortions on underage girls.” But the Democratic-controlled Legislature passed a parental consent bill in 1984. In 1995, the law was strengthened, Casey said.

• Gay marriage. The charge will be that “Democrats want gays to get married.” House GOP members want a constitutional amendment to ban it, but the Legislature in 2001 passed a law stating that marriage is “a loving, lifelong union between a man and a woman.”

• Drunken driving. Democrats strengthened the blood alcohol-content level, tightening it from .10 to .08, Casey said.

• Food tax. Democrats just lowered the 6 percent tax to 5 percent, or by $25 million annually, Casey said.

Delegates Mike Caputo, Tim Manchin and Linda Longstreth are the Democratic incumbents who are seeking re-election in the district.

Belinda Biafore, chairman of the Marion County Democratic Party, said the “And for the Sake of the Kids” title is misleading.

While the group raised money from many contributors, “none of that money ever went to kids’ projects — it strictly went to defeat Warren McGraw,” Biafore said.

A check of campaign finance reports at the Secretary of State’s Web site — — does not show similar donations by Blankenship to Chuck Mullett and Thomas F. Smith. They, too, are Republican candidates in the 43rd District race. Mullett could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Smith said the only contribution he has received was one for $250 from the West Virginia State Medical Association — “and I was surprised about that.”

“I don’t blame Rick Starn for taking Don Blankenship’s contribution,” Smith said.

Smith said he would take a contribution from Blankenship if it were offered, “but I’m not going to solicit it.”

He did not answer a questionnaire from the Blankenship campaign, Smith said.

Smith and Starn said they did not answer a questionnaire that the state Democratic Executive Committee sent to Republican candidates.

The Democratic questionnaire told Republican candidates who took Blankenship’s donations that Democrats would publicize their alleged agreement with Blankenship’s other positions.

“We thought it was important to know where candidates who take Don Blankenship’s money” stand on other of his positions, the Democratic questionnaire states.

The survey criticizes Blankenship for not creating a foundation for needy children, citing an October 2004 pledge to do so.

It also asks GOP candidates whether Massey should be allowed to build a coal storage silo near a school in Raleigh County.

Other questions include: “Do you believe that Don Blankenship is a hypocrite for repeatedly attacking the state’s courts when its (sic) used by consumers and workers, but readily files lawsuit upon lawsuit himself?”

“This isn’t a matter of being a Democrat or a Republican,” Biafore said.

“If the way Blankenship treats his own mine workers is any indication of how he’s going to encourage a better West Virginia economy, it certainly doesn’t match up with what West Virginians believe,” she said.

Starn is “going to have to expect some criticism on our part” for taking Blankenship’s money.

“For the most part in Marion County, Democrats have run on the positive things we are doing,” she said.

Republicans “like to talk the talk, but we walk the walk. We’ll put up our record for what we’ve done for working families compared to what they have done.”

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