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Bill Cole Becomes Second WV GOP Candidate to Face Allegations of Construction Worker Abuse

A campaign ad has exposed WV Gov. candidate Bill Cole's exploitation of immigrant workers

A campaign ad has exposed WV Gov. candidate Bill Cole’s exploitation of immigrant workers

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West Virginia gubernatorial candidate Jim Justice (D) appears to be in a strong position heading into election day. Polling gives Justice a double-digit lead over his chief rival, state Senate president Bill Cole (R). A Repass Research poll shows Justice running at 44% to Cole’s 33%. The Justice campaign released their own poll numbers showing similar results:

The Repass Research poll also found that Justice supporters are more committed to their candidate, with 32 percent of Justice supporters indicating they will definitely vote for him, compared to 21 percent of Cole supporters who said they will definitely vote for Cole.

Asked who they think will win the election, regardless of who they support, 52 percent of those surveyed said Justice, while 28 percent said Cole.

Naturally, Cole’s own internal polling shows a much tighter race. The Justice campaign, however, is unfazed:

“Could the race tighten? Absolutely there’s no double about it. But there’s nothing in the data to indicate this race is close,” [pollster Jefrey Pollock of Global Strategy Group] said, including the favorable’s and unfavorable’s. “Jim Justice favorable’s right now is 50 percent (favorable) to 26 percent (unfavorable). Bill Cole’s favorable’s is 38 percent to 34 percent. So Jim Justice is well-liked by a two to one margin where Bill Cole is even.”

Justice, who unlike his opponent supports the prevailing wage and opposes “Right-to-Work,” caused a dustup with a television commercial showing immigrant workers on a local elementary school project in Wayne County, WV. In the ad, Justice accuses Cole of orchestrating a deal that repealed prevailing wage laws “to cut workers’ pay and encourage hiring out-of-state contractors to hire out-of-state workers.” Using cease and desist letters, Cole tried to get the ads taken off the air to no avail. 

The executive director of the West Virginia School Building Authority confirmed that the school project featured in the commercial is riddled with problems, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail:

“It’s pretty unusual for that many things to be rejected,” [Executive Director] David Sneed said of three letters from the architect for the Crum school project, each citing construction problems. “It’s unusual for that company to have this many problems.”

Swope Construction, the contractor on the project, has expressed frustration over the public circulation of the letters:

Don Gatewood, vice president of Swope Construction, objected Tuesday to the “unauthorized and unprofessional distribution” of the rejection letters for what he said are political purposes.
“Politicized is the right word for it,” he said.

As it happens, Swope Construction was co-founded by Chandler Swope, the Republican nominee for West Virginia’s 6th Senatorial District seat, which turns out to be the very seat being vacated by Bill Cole. Swope has had his own construction site problems and faced allegations of using underpaid foreign labor. Swope, predictably, opposes the prevailing wage.


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