A Historic Election Year in 2010

WHEELING – The 2010 midterm election resulted in historic political change both locally and nationally, and saw the emergence of the Tea Party as a major political force.

Residents mourned the passing of the nation’s longest-serving senator in U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. – and a new senator elected to replace him in Joe Manchin; a veteran lawmaker defeated in U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va.; three Republicans riding the anti-incumbent wave being selected to represent the Ohio Valley in the U.S. House in David McKinley, Bill Johnson and Bob Gibbs; and a shake-up in the Northern Panhandle’s representation in Charleston.

Ohioans, meanwhile, chose a new governor in John Kasich and replaced all Democrats holding state executive offices with Republicans.

Congressional races

The trend toward political change began in January, when Mollohan received an unexpected primary challenge from state Sen. Michael Oliverio, D-Monongalia. Nine Republicans – including McKinley, a Wheeling resident – also lined up to challenge for the seat.

Mollohan, who had been dealing with allegations concerning his personal finances for years, ended up losing the party’s nomination to Oliverio while McKinley captured the Republican Party’s nod. That set a hotly-contested general election match-up between McKinley and Oliverio, which McKinley won by a 1,700-vote margin.

The trend continued in Ohio, as Republican Bob Gibbs, a state senator, defeated incumbent U.S. Rep. Zack Space, D-Ohio; and Republican Bill Johnson defeated incumbent U.S. Rep. Charles Wilson, D-Ohio, of St. Clairsville.

Republicans would win control of the U.S. House on Nov. 2, gaining more than 60 seats across the country.

U.S. Senate race

Possibly the most important event affecting West Virginia politics in 2010 came on June 28, when Byrd – who had served more than a half century in the U.S. Senate – died at the age of 92.

Questions arose about how the vacant Senate seat would be filled as the West Virginia Constitution was deemed vague on issues of succession.

Legislators resolved the issue in late July when they agreed to legislation establishing a special primary election for U.S. Senate on Aug. 28, followed by a special general election to happen concurrently with the regular general election on Nov. 2.

Manchin, then the Mountain State’s governor, appointed Carte Goodwin, his former legal counsel, as interim U.S. senator representing West Virginia. Goodwin served until mid-November when Manchin was sworn-in to the post.

Morgantown businessman John Raese defeated nine other Republicans to win the GOP nomination for Senate in the special primary election. Manchin, meanwhile, was the victor over two opponents on the Democratic ticket. Manchin captured the seat in November over Raese.

That left the governor’s seat open. In accordance with the state Constitution, state Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, assumed the role of acting governor.

West Virginia

legislative races

In January, state Sen. Ed Bowman, D-Hancock, announced he would not seek re-election in 2010 after serving 16 years representing the state’s 1st Senate District. The move set off a chain of political events that resulted in a major shake up to the Northern Panhandle’s delegation in Charleston.

Delegate Orphy Klempa, D-Ohio, withdrew his bid for re-election in the 3rd House of Delegates District to file in the 1st District Senate race and then Delegate Tal Hutchins, D-Ohio, also representing the 3rd District, announced he would not seek re-election. That left two open House seats in Ohio County, and four Democrats and three Republicans filed for the posts.

Republicans Erikka Storch and Dolph Santorine emerged as the GOP nominees in the 3rd District, and Shawn Fluharty and Ryan Ferns won on the Democratic side. Storch and Ferns captured the two open seats in November’s general election.

In the 1st House District, incumbent Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, filed on the GOP ticket for Bowman’s 1st Senate District seat. Incumbent Delegate Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock, and newcomer Ronnie Jones would be the Democratic nominees in the 1st District, and both Swartzmiller and Jones won the seats in the November general election.

McGeehan lost the GOP primary election for the 1st Senate District seat to Wheeling businessman Charles Schlegel, setting up a Senate contest in the fall between Schlegel and Klempa. Klempa emerged victorious in that contest.

Ohio races

Ohio state government saw much change this year as Republican John Kasich easily defeated Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland. Republicans also took other state executive offices in Ohio.

Locally, voters selected Democrat Lou Gentile to represent them in the 95th House District and succeed the term-limited Ohio Rep. John Domenick, D-Smithfield.

Voters in the 96th House District also elected political newcomer Alan Landis, a Republican from New Philadelphia.

Ohioans also selected a new U.S. senator in Republican Rob Portman who will replace retiring U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio.

West Virginia governor

Tomblin became West Virginia’s acting governor under provisions of the West Virginia Constitution. As with the U.S. Senate race, the state constitution requires that a special election take place for governor, but it doesn’t state when such an election should occur.

The matter is currently the subject of a case before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, and the Legislature is expected to address the issue of gubernatorial succession laws when it convenes for regular session on Jan. 12.

This month, Democrats in the state Senate debated whether to establish the position of “acting Senate president” with the incoming legislative term as Tomblin continues to serve as acting governor.

The motion to establish the title of acting president – and to place state Sen. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, in that role – will be considered by the full Senate at the start of the term.

Tomblin and Kessler both have announced their intentions to seek the office of governor when an election occurs.

Other expected Democratic candidates are House Speaker Richard Thompson, D-Wayne; state Treasurer John Perdue; state Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha; and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant.

On the GOP side, expected candidates are state Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, and former Secretary of State Betty Ireland.