Too Close to Call: Sponaugle Narrowly Leads in Democratic AG Primary
CHARLESTON — Pendleton County attorney and lawmaker Isaac Sponaugle pulled ahead late Tuesday night for the Democratic Party nomination for Attorney General.
According to unofficial results in the primary election from the Secretary of State, Sponaugle, an attorney from Franklin and member of the House of Delegates, received 50.26 percent of the vote, 84,005 votes. Challenger Sam Brown Petsonk, a Fayette County-based public interest attorney, received 49.74 percent, 83,152 votes.
Sponaugle and Petsonk are separated by 853 votes with 98 percent of the state’s 1,708 precincts reporting to the Secretary of State’s Office. Every county has posted unofficial numbers, while Mineral County has only posted partial results. Absentee ballots postmarked by Tuesday and still being counted could also change that vote total.
In a statement Wednesday morning, Sponaugle said he was aware more ballots are still to be counted, but he said the momentum behind his campaign, which started nearly six months ago, was clear.
“There are ballots left to be counted, including absentee ballots from across the state,” Sponaugle said. “What is crystal clear is the momentum behind this campaign and the support for our vision for West Virginia. As we await the results, I want to thank all the supporters from across the state who have joined our campaign for attorney general.”
Sponaugle, 41, filed for the race in December. He is a managing partner in the Sponaugle and Sponaugle law firm. Sponaugle was first elected to the House in 2012 and is a deputy minority whip.
Petsonk, 35, is an employment law attorney from Fayette County and a former legislative assistant to the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd. He first filed to run for attorney general 11 months ago.
In a statement Wednesday, Petsonk said he was awaiting more ballots before conceding.
“All of the mail-in ballots postmarked yesterday have yet to be counted. We know there are still many thousands of valid ballots outstanding,” Petsonk said. “It is far too soon to call this race and, if the current trends hold, I am still the likely victor.”
Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who ran unopposed for the nomination, is seeking a third term as the state’s top attorney.
“We are going to run a positive campaign that focuses on our strong record of defending jobs, aggressively fighting the opioid epidemic and rooting out fraud,” Morrisey said in a statement.
“We will work closely with President (Donald) Trump and stand in strong opposition to the radical left-wing interests which seek to defund our police, kill our energy jobs and harm West Virginia values.”
Sponaugle said he plans to run an aggressive campaign against Morrisey, bringing attention to Morrisey’s lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, his inability to win major awards in opioid lawsuits and the office’s lack of focus on consumer protection.
“They know that I will fight for their health care, not play games with it,” Sponaugle said. “I will stand up to the corrupt special interests and Big Pharma, not profit off them. I will fight for West Virginia families, not sell them out for personal gain. This campaign is ready for the general election against Patrick Morrisey. The contrast between us is real. We expect to be declared the Democratic nominee for attorney general when all the votes are counted.”