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The Top Stories of 2012: THE ELECTION

Coal Was Burning Issue Of Ohio Valley Campaign

December 27, 2012
By JOSELYN KING Political Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

EDITOR'S NOTE: The past 12 months have been interesting - and at times, trying - for local residents, as natural gas drilling, politics, court cases and numerous other issues dominated the daily headlines. Through Sunday, The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register present the Ohio Valley's top 10 stories of 2012, as voted on by the newspapers' editors.


WHEELING - Concerns about the future of the coal industry fueled the 2012 presidential election year in the Ohio Valley.

Article Photos

Photo by Scott McCloskey
Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for president, addresses a rally at the Century Mine in Beallsville on Aug. 3.

Although he won the national election, President Barack Obama lost big to Republican challenger Mitt Romney in local counties - receiving just 43 percent of the vote in Brooke County; 38.18 percent in Hancock County; 34.72 percent in Marshall County; 37.89 percent in Ohio County; 27.14 percent in Tyler County; and 37.86 percent in Wetzel County.

Obama lost all 55 counties in West Virginia and received 35.54 percent of the total vote in the state.

He won the state of Ohio and its 18 electoral votes, receiving 50 percent to Romney's 47 percent - but Obama did lose counties in East Ohio. In Belmont County, he received 44.61 percent of the vote; in Harrison County, 41.3 percent; in Jefferson County, 46.37 percent; and in Monroe County, 45.57 percent.

Romney visited the area on two occasions - both times at the invitation of Robert E. Murray, president and chief executive officer of Murray Energy. Romney first spoke at a fundraiser organized for him by Murray at Oglebay Park's White Palace on May 3. He then returned to the area on Aug. 14, addressing a rally of Murray's employees assembled at the Century Mine in Beallsville.

On the Democrat side, Vice President Joe Biden visited Jefferson and Belmont counties on May 17 and spoke to a crowd gathered at Staffilino's Chevrolet in Martins Ferry.

A local matchup for the House saw Charles Wilson, a Democrat from St. Clairsville, seeking to regain his former Ohio 6th District seat against freshman Bill Johnson, a Republican from Marietta. Johnson was victorious.

Two Wheeling residents faced off for West Virginia's 1st District seat in the House, where Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., defeated Democrat Sue Thorn.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was successful in his first bid for re-election against Republican challenger John Raese; and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, likewise staved off a challenge from Republican Josh Mandel, who continues his role as Ohio treasurer.

Local races were among some of the most hotly contested this election season.

In Ohio County, Sheriff Pat Butler, a Republican, and former sheriff Thomas Burgoyne, a Democrat, squared off in a bitter battle. During a political forum Oct. 17 at West Liberty University, Butler accused Burgoyne of using the department for his own political purposes when he held the office. Burgoyne responded that Butler - his former chief deputy - never raised any issues about his conduct when he campaigned to get Butler elected sheriff four years ago.

Butler was re-elected to a second term.

A race for Wheeling's 2nd Ward council seat saw six candidates on the ballot seeking to succeed Councilman Vernon Seals representing Wheeling Island. Ken Imer won the race - but only by one vote over Charles Ballouz.

Some local candidates also found themselves in trouble with the law this election year.

Wheeling police cited Delegate Ryan Ferns on April 20 after a traffic stop where police said Ferns' blood-alcohol content registered 0.229 percent - nearly three times the legal limit for driving of 0.08 percent. Initially Ferns said he would resign his 3rd District delegate seat and withdraw from his re-election bid. He didn't do either and was re-elected to a second term in the House on Nov. 6.

Belmont County Commissioner Matt Coffland still faces a number of misdemeanor charges stemming from Ohio Investigative Unit officers coming into his bar early on April 1 to determine if underage drinking was taking place. On July 20, Coffland was arrested at Jamboree In The Hills on a felony charge of assault on a peace officer after allegedly throwing a full beer can at one of the Ohio Investigative Unit officers who came into his bar.

Coffland was acquitted of the felony charge on Oct. 19 - less than two weeks before the Nov. 6 general election. Coffland was re-elected after receiving 40 percent of the vote in a three-man race against businessman Douglas Longenette and former television reporter Jerry Echemann. No date has been set for further court proceedings on the misdemeanor charges.

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