U.S. Senate Race Tops West Virginia Ballot

Editor’s note: This is the first in a five-part series detailing 2012 elections in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle.

WHEELING – West Virginia voters may get a sense of deja vu when they see their ballot this year.

“It’s a repeat again – both for the governor and U.S. Senate,” said Robert Rupp, professor of history and political science at West Virginia Wesleyan College. “It’s the same old players, and that’s the key.”

He said this year’s election may hinge upon whether the popularity of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., trumps the unpopularity of President Barack Obama. Rupp predicts West Virginia might vote a “mini-straight ticket” in 2012.

Manchin, a Marion County resident, is being challenged by Shierl Fletcher of Monongalia County on the Democrat ticket. The winner of the nomination faces John Raese – the only Republican candidate in the race.

Manchin defeated Fletcher and former Rep. Ken Hechler in the 2010 special primary for the seat after the death of Sen. Robert Byrd. He defeated Raese in the general election.

In Raese, “the Republicans have again gone for a self-financed successful business person,” Rupp said. “Usually, repeats don’t work. The reason they don’t work is that when you go against a non-incumbent, you can raise fears about what they will do in office. But when you have an incumbency in front of a name, that can be very powerful.”

Freshman Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., is running unopposed for the Republican nomination to the West Virginia 1st District congressional seat. Just one candidate – Sue Thorn of Wheeling – has filed to run for the seat on the Democrat ticket.

Some familiar names are also on the ballot for governor in West Virginia. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin of Logan County is opposed by Arnie Moltis of Kanawha County on the Democrat ballot. Monongalia County residents Bill Maloney and Ralph William Clark are on the GOP ticket.

Tomblin beat Maloney in last year’s special general election for governor by 7,546 votes statewide; in Logan County alone, the margin was 6,167.

Incumbents in other state offices are running unopposed in the Democrat primary, but Republicans are fielding a slate of candidates to oppose them in the general election.

Candidates for secretary of state are Democrat incumbent Natalie Tennant of Kanawha County and Republican Brian Savilla of Mason County. Auditor Glen Gainer III of Wood County, a Democrat, is seeking re-election, and Larry Faircloth of Berkeley County is running on the Republican ticket.

Treasurer John Perdue has no Democrat challenger, but a primary contest for the office will take place on the GOP ballot. Republican candidates for treasurer are Steve Connolly and Mike Hall, both of Putnam County. Five Democrats are vying to succeed retiring Commissioner of Agriculture Gus Douglass. They are Walt Helmick of Pocahontas County, Joe Messineo of Roane County, Steve Miller of Mineral County, Sally Shepherd of Kanawha County and Bob Tabb of Jefferson County. Republicans hope to appoint a candidate in the race, as Mike Teets of Hardy County has withdrawn.

Attorney General Darrell McGraw of Kanawha County seeks re-election, and Republican Patrick Morrisey of Jefferson County has filed for the job.

Six candidates are seeking the Democrat nomination for two seats open on the state Supreme Court of Appeals. They are J.D. Beane of Wood County; Letitia Chafin, incumbent Robin Davis and Louis Palmer, all of Kanawha County; H. John Rogers of Wetzel County; and James J. “Jim” Rowe of Greenbrier County.

Two Republicans – Allen Loughry of Kanahwa County and John Yoder of Jefferson County – also are seeking the bench.

In the state Senate, Jack Yost, D-Brooke, is seeking nomination for re-election in the 1st District, while former Delegate Patrick McGeehan of Hancock County has filed on the GOP ticket. Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, has no opposition in the 2nd District.

In the House of Delegates, two delegates will be elected in the 1st District this year. Democrats in the race are Marilyn Boyd of Newell and incumbents Ronnie Jones of Weirton and Randy Swartzmiller of Chester. Republican candidates are Justin Bull of Weirton, Ian Masters of Newell and Carl Thompson of Weirton.

Just one delegate will be elected in the new 2nd District as a result of redistricting in 2011. Philip W. Diserio, D-Brooke, was appointed to represent the 2nd District in January, and he faces a challenge in the Democrat primary from Chris Byers of Weirton. Lynn Davis of Wellsburg has filed as a Republican.

Two delegates will be elected in the 3rd District. Democrat candidates are incumbent Ryan Ferns, D-Ohio, and Shawn Fluharty of Wheeling. Incumbent Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, and Larry Tighe of Wheeling are on the GOP ballot.

In the 4th District, two delegates will be elected, but incumbent Scott Varner, D-Marshall, is not seeking re-election. Democrat candidates in the running are incumbent Michael Ferro, D-Marshall; Keith Hughes of Cameron; David Sidiropolis of McMechen; and R.J. Smith of Dallas. Also in the race is Republican David Evans of Cameron.

One delegate will be elected in the 5th District, where incumbent David Pethtel, D-Wetzel, is seeking re-election. Raymond V. Davis III of New Martinsville has filed as a Mountain Party candidate.

In the 6th District, incumbent Roger Romine, R-Tyler, is running unopposed for the Republican nomination. There will be a primary contest for the seat between Democrats Charles DeLauder of Middlebourne and Karl Paul of Wick.