Mac Warner discusses polling, mudslinging, and wanting to be West Virginia’s ‘Education Governor’

By Matthew Young, RealWV

With less than a week remaining in 2024’s primary season, West Virginia’s Republican gubernatorial candidates are in a foot race to the finish line. And if the recent polling numbers are to be believed, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, businessman Chris Miller, and former Delegate Moore Capito are all within striking distance of the GOP’s nomination. 

In a new poll released last week by MetroNews – the outlet’s second poll in the last 30 days – Morrisey is holding at 32%, with Miller and Capito locked in a virtual tie, at 25% and 24% respectively. When you factor in the 4.9% margin of error, and the nearly 10% of respondents firmly undecided, the foot race may come down to a photo finish. 

During a campaign stop in Lewisburg on Friday, Morrisey gleefully told supporters that, “One of the liberal news stations came out and said that in my race for governor we’re ahead by seven points,” going so far as to call it “good polling news.” And while Morrisey is seemingly satisfied with the poll this week, his campaign has been highly critical of MetroNews’ previous primary polling. 

In September, Morrisey spokesperson Jai Chabria called it “a fake poll” after a corrected mistake showed Morrisey at 27%. However, the Morrisey camp was silent regarding the May 2 poll showing Chris Miller’s eight-point surge in less than three weeks. 

One candidate who is not bothered by the polling data is Secretary of State Mac Warner. In a written statement released on Monday, Warner said, “This is reminiscent of the national media effort to elect Hillary Clinton in 2016 by presenting misleading poll results.” 

RealWV spoke with Warner about his campaign on April 26. 

“I’m getting strong responses wherever I go,” Warner said. “I’m not paying much attention to the polling – I’m feeling pretty good about everything.”

(L-R) W.Va. Secretary of State Mac Warner, with Retired General Michael Flynn, and wife Del. Debbie Warner at a Charleston screening of the film “Deliver the Truth, Whatever the Cost.” Flynn has endorsed Warner’s campaign for Governor.

Beyond his lack of preoccupation with the polling numbers, Warner said he also hasn’t “gotten down into the mudslinging” that several of his opponents have engaged in. 

“There needs to be an adult in the room,” Warner explained. “That’s really the differentiator between me and some of the other candidates.”

“I’ve got a lifetime of experience,” Warner continued. “I’m the only veteran in the race. I’m the only teacher, and I’m the only senior. All of those things add up to a wealth of experience that you can’t learn from a book.”

“The role of the governor is not one you need to learn on the job,” Warner added. 

While Moore Capito has also, to a large degree, remained above the mudslinging, the same cannot be said for Morrisey and Miller. Both candidates have made increasingly hostile accusations toward one another as they compete for the same block of voters. However, while his opponents are launching socially-charged attacks on television, Warner says he’s remaining focused on the issues impacting the majority of West Virginians. 

“I knew I wanted to be the education governor,” Warner said. “As I go to the schools, there are several things that surprised me. First, I was in Wayne County, and they were talking about a truancy rate of 25%. That really floored me.”

“The second thing,” Warner continued, “Virtually every school that I’ve been to – when I ask them about their biggest problems – vaping comes out. High school, after high school, after high school said vaping is one of the biggest problems.”

Cell phones, Warner added, are also a tremendous distraction in the classroom. 

“So truancy, vaping, and the cell phones,” Warner noted. “But, we’ve also got to get more teachers in the classroom – and that’s qualified teachers. How can we talk about a budget surplus in this state when we have 1,200-plus openings for teachers?”

“We’ve got to get the pay up, we’ve got to fix PEIA, and we have to fix the discipline problems so that the teachers can teach, and not have to serve as surrogate parents,” Warner continued. 

In addition to raising salaries and bolstering benefits packages for teachers, bus drivers, and other education professionals, Warner says there are other avenues he would pursue from the governor’s office to strengthen the public school workforce.

“I love this ‘Grow Your Own’ program,” Warner explained. “What it’s designed to do is to start identifying these students – even as early as middle school, but particularly in high school – who are showing an affinity for becoming a teacher. We want to nurture and encourage that. We want to identify those students, and as they work through high school, motivate them into these dual-enrollment programs.”

“I’m seeing it working in a few schools,” Warner added. “I think we can take that across the state, and encourage that at all levels.”

Warner then harkened back to his military service when referencing the “Troop to Teacher” program, saying, “This is encouraging people, as they come out of the military, give them credit for what they’ve learned during their service.”

“A lot of these people have been dealing with math and science, and the STEM programs in their military careers,” Warner noted. “Let’s bring them back and get them into these schools. We’re honoring our veterans, saying ‘We want you here in West Virginia.’”

“It’s not only filling those teacher roles, they have a better approach toward discipline, and keeping control of students in the classroom,” Warner added. “Those two programs – Grow Your Own and Troop to Teacher – are a couple things we can try to start to solve the teacher problem in West Virginia.”

Early voting in West Virginia is now underway, and will continue through May 11. Primary Election Day is Tuesday, May 14. Voters must be registered either as independent, or a member of a particular political party to vote in that party’s primary election.

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