West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Douglas McKinney doesn't think a contentious Democratic primary election will necessarily help GOP chances to take the state's 1st District congressional seat this year.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., faces a primary challenge in 2010 from current state Sen. Mike Oliverio, D-Monongalia.
"After years of having none or only token opposition in the primary, (Mollohan) has competition this year," McKinney said "And Sen. Oliverio has always been a conservative guy. He votes with the Republican on committees. We've joked for years he needs to come over to the party who thinks like he does.
"He's a real contrast to Mollohan," McKinney added.
McKinney further said the significance of a Democratic primary to Republicans "depends on how you look at it."
"Most Republicans are just looking to vote against Mollohan," he said. "Republicans will be disappointed if Oliverio wins that they didn't get to cast a vote against Mollohan."
On the Republican side, meanwhile, there are six candidates seeking the 1st District congressional seat this year. And McKinney doesn't think that's too many.
"Everybody has a right to run," he said. "But there is a question for voters to decide as to whether to vote for the people who have held office before and have paid their dues, or whether the newcomers have better ideas. It will be interesting to see."
Among the candidates, David B. McKinley and Sarah Minear both previously served in the West Virginia Legislature. Mac Warner comes from a political family whose members have served in public office, but this is Warner's first attempt at seeking election. And Patricia Levenson, Tom Stark and Cindy Hall are political newcomers.
"All of the candidates bill themselves as conservatives, and those with voting records have shown they are conservatives," McKinney noted. "That's what people are after - a return to conservatism in the Republican Party. The 'tea party' wants a return as well.
"It bodes well for us in November," he added.
He said interest in this Republican primary race likely will help energize the party this year.
"People are getting involved on behalf of candidates who might not otherwise get involved," McKinney said. "We will hope those who support specific candidates who lose in the primary will continue to support the Republican nominee in the general election."