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W.Va. Secretary of State: Candidate Filings Proceed Smoothly

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner said Saturday the nearly two-week candidate filing period for the May primary and November general election ballots has gone smoothly.

The Secretary of State’s Office at the State Capitol Building in Charleston was open until midnight Saturday for last-minute filings, as was the office’s business hubs in Clarksburg and Martinsburg.

Candidates who also were able to get the candidate filing postmarked by Saturday also will be accepted.

Since the start of the filing period Jan. 13, more than 341 candidates have filed for federal, statewide, legislative and judicial offices. Warner said more than 1,000 candidates have filed for offices at the county level across all 55 counties.

“It’s an energetic year with the presidential election, and we’re seeing that both national level and also here at the state level. It’s been extremely busy here at the office,” Warner said.

“It’s just been a great political year. It’s game on. The presidential election brings out all kinds of enthusiasm and we’re definitely seeing that here in the state.”

In the presidential primary contests, there are four Republicans challenging President Donald Trump in the May 12 primary. Since Jan. 18, these include former Massachusetts governor and 2016 Libertarian Party vice presidential candidate Bill Weld, Los Angeles attorney Matt Matern, and perennial candidate Bob Ely. They join another perennial candidate, Rocky De La Fuente on the Republican primary ballot.

In the Democratic primary for president, candidates who filed since last week include entrepreneur Andrew Yang, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, billionaire Tom Steyer, former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, and U.S Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado. They join former vice president Joe Biden, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Maryland congressman John Delaney, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Parkersburg resident David Rice.

In the U.S. Senate race, Shelley Moore Capito will face a primary challenge from Family Policy Council of West Virginia President Allen Whitt. The winner of the Republican primary will either face former Logan County state senator Richard Ojeda, former U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin primary challenger Paula Swearengin, or former South Charleston mayor and frequent candidate Richie Robb.

In the 1st Congressional District, Republican David McKinley is running for a sixth term, challenged by Wheeling resident Natalie Cline. Second District Congressman Alex Mooney will face a Republican primary challenge from Berkeley Springs physician Matthew Hahn. The winner will face Charleston environmental activist and researcher Cathy Kunkel. In the 3rd Congressional District, Republican Carol Miller is running for a second term against Lewisburg resident Russell Siegel. The winner will face one of four Democrats: Huntington Tri-State Transit Authority General Manager and CEO Paul Davis, Milton resident Jeff Lewis, Huntington resident Hilary Turner, or Bluefield resident Lacy Watson.

The Republican primary for governor got two additional candidates to challenge Gov. Jim Justice: Cameron resident and retired Division of Highways worker Charles Sheedy, and Cabell County insurance salesperson Brooke Lunsford. They join businessman and former Commerce Department secretary Woody Thrasher, pilot and former Berkeley County delegate Mike Folk, Burton resident Doug Six, and Martinsburg resident Shelby Fitzhugh.

In the Democratic primary for governor, Parkersburg resident and former Pleasants County economic development official Jody Murphy filed Jan. 20. Logan resident Douglas Hughes also filed Friday. They joined community organizer Stephen Smith, Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango, and Logan County physician and state Sen. Ron Stollings.

As of Saturday afternoon, there will be no primaries for Warner, who is seeking his second term as Secretary of State as a Republican, and former Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. There also will be no primary challengers for Republican State Auditor J.B. McCuskey, who is being challenged again by Democrat Mary Ann Claytor; or Democratic State Treasurer John Perdue, who is being challenged by former Jefferson County Republican delegate Riley Moore.

Republican Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt will face a primary challenge from Lesage resident Roy Ramey, who ran for state Senate from Cabell County in 2014 as an independent. The winner will face one of three Democrats: Monongalia state Sen. Bob Beach, former Hardy County Commissioner William “J.R.” Keplinger, and former deputy Agriculture Commissioner Dave Miller.

Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is so far running unopposed in the May primary. He will face one of two Democrats in November: Beckley Attorney Sam Petsonk or Pendleton County Delegate Isaac Sponaugle.

In the non-partisan race for West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, Chief Justice Tim Armstead will face former two-term supreme court justice Richard Neely in Division 1. Armstead was appointed by Justice to fill the remaining term of former justice Menis Ketchum, Armstead won a special election for the seat in 2018. Neely, first elected in 1972, hasn’t been on a ballot since 1984 and resigned from his second term in 1995.

In Division 2, Justice Margaret Workman has not filed for re-election. Voters will choose between Kanawha County Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit, Kanawha County Family Court Judge Jim Douglas, Putnam County Assistant Prosecutor Kristina Raynes, and former Raleigh County state senator and occasional supreme court candidate William Wooten.

In Division 3, Justice John Hutchison is running to finish the term of former justice Allen Loughry. Hutchison was appointed to fill the seat after Loughry was convicted in federal court and resigned. The winner of the seat will serve until 2024. Hutchison is being challenged by Jackson County Circuit Judge Lora Dyer and Charleston attorney William Schwartz, who finished last in the 2018 special election to fill the remaining term of former justice Robin Davis. Schwartz finished in 10th place with 3.62 percent of the vote compared to Justice Evan Jenkins with 36.01 percent.

Since the judicial races are non-partisan, there are no primaries, with the May election serving as the general election for judicial candidates. The winners in May will take office in January 2021.

Warner said the Secretary of State’s Elections Division is ready for the May 12 primary. Since he was elected in 2017, Warner has been working with county clerks to focus on election cybersecurity, updating outdated electronic voting machines, cleaning up voter registration rolls, and making it easier to register to vote.

“The state is ready, that’s the message that everybody needs to understand,” Warner said. “The training has been extensive. The communication with the county clerks has been extensive. There’s been a restoration of the relationships with the county clerks with our outreach program through the field teams.”

After the attempted penetration of election systems in 2016 in several states by Russia, Warner started working with county clerks, other states, federal agencies, and academics at Harvard University to put together plans and training programs to prepare election managers for cyber-attacks and misinformation. The office’s Information Technology Division also works with the West Virginia National Guard to monitor firewalls and protect and detect attempted penetrations.

“We’re out there actually leading the nation in some of the areas with regards to cybersecurity,” Warner said. “Since the 2016 election, a lot of improvement has been made in the communications. At the same time, West Virginia just put out the premier continuing operations plan that was just produced here in this office and now it has been pushed out nationwide so other states can use this as their continuing operations plan. I’m very proud of our staff and what we’ve gotten done.”

Overseas military members and their families will once again be able to vote by smartphone. The mobile voting app, developed by Voatz and funded by Tusk Philanthropies, uses biometric data to confirm the voter’s identity, allows them to vote by smartphone, and uploads the ballot into an encrypted blockchain system until Election Day, when the county clerk prints the ballot and tabulates it.

This year, voters with physical disabilities could also soon use the mobile voting app. Senate Bill 94 would provide West Virginians with physical disabilities the ability to vote by an electronic absentee ballot. The bill passed both the state Senate and House of Delegates unanimously and is awaiting the approval of Gov. Jim Justice.

“We’re trying to expand the franchise. We want to make it easy for everyone to vote and to register to vote,” Warner said. “The Legislature has allowed us now to extend that electronic transmission of a ballot to the disabled community. We already had done that with overseas voting and military voting. It was a logical progression, and so we’re proud to be offering that for the upcoming election.”

West Virginians have until April 21 to register to vote or update their voter registration information for the May 12 primary. Early voting in the primary starts April 29 and ends May 9. Visit GoVoteWV.com for more information.

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