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Underwood cites media for his defeat in gubernatorial race

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

CHARLESTON -- Gov. Cecil Underwood says the media is partially to blame for his defeat to U.S. Rep. Bob Wise.

"---damn it," Underwood told the Charleston Daily Mail. "One of our problems is you people in the press keep coming looking for something negative."

The Republican governor said he wired the state's public schools for the Internet, cut back the workers' compensation deficit, oversaw reforms in higher education and improved workforce training programs.

"What the people of this state need is a message of hope," Underwood said. "And that's what we've been giving them for four years."

No one seemed to notice, he said. Or at least, no one gave him credit.

Wise attacked Underwood for not leading the state to growth.

"This 'not far enough, fast enough' was a campaign tool," Underwood complained.

He pointed to the number of new jobs created in the state and one statistic: The state's unemployment rate rests at a historic low.

"All of these records have been broken, for chrissakes," Underwood said. "The press doesn't pick up on that. That's one of the problems we've had."

Underwood said his administration aimed for "managed change instead of being victimized by change."

He is proud of the "business-friendly environment" he said he worked to create. "I make no apologies for that. It creates jobs," Underwood said.

There is unfinished business.

A regional airport he has pushed for in the Charleston-Huntington area is not a sure thing.

His attempt to revamp the state's tax code with a Fair Taxation Commission may disappear with him.

And he would like to have seen further improvement in what he calls the state's information infrastructure.

Still, when he walks out of the governor's mansion for the last time, Underwood said he will know he did his best.

"People are proud of the governor, even those who didn't vote for me," he said.

"And," he said, "I think I'll look better with each passing day."

Underwood may move back to his home in Huntington, so he and his wife, Hovah, can be close to their four grandchildren in Charleston.

Until then, Underwood said he can do without condolence calls and slaps on the back from people trying to make him feel better about his defeat.

"I appreciate their concern. But I don't like going to funerals."

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