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Local Republicans Are Targeted

And the winner is …

West Virginia House of Delegates member David Evans of Marshall County.

Evans beats Hancock County House of Delegates candidate Pat McGeehan by a nose.

And House candidates Dolph Santorine of Ohio County and Ryan Weld of Brooke County finish solidly, not far behind.

Election Day is next Tuesday, of course, so I’m not talking about how well the four will fare then.

Where they already shine is as targets for independent political organizations attacking Republicans who are running for the House of Delegates.

This election campaign is marked by mudslinging and big spending by Democrat organizations trying to keep Republicans from gaining control of the House. As the editorial beside this column notes, spending by independent groups not formally affiliated with candidates or political parties has gone through the roof. Most of it is against Republicans rather than for Democrats.

Much of the independent groups’ advertising consists of personal attacks against Republican candidates, with no discussion of issues. One has to wonder why the organizations are afraid to discuss matters of real importance to West Virginians.

Here in the Northern Panhandle, we’ve been favored – you may choose another word – with special attention by the independent spenders. They’ve shelled out money here far out of proportion to some other regions of the state.

Evans, seeking reelection to his House seat from Marshall County, seems to be a special worry to the independent groups. By my count, one of them, Honest West Virginians, has spent $37,133.80 opposing Evans. Combine that with the $14,576.97 HWV has spent supporting one of his opponents, and Evans tops the liberal special interest group hit list, at $51,710,77.

My numbers, incidentally, differ a bit from what we reported Friday, because my primary focus was on spending by HWV and another liberal group, Protect West Virginia.

McGeehan, a Republican running for the House from the First District at the tip of our state, is close behind. Between them, HWV and PWV have spent $44,278.01 against him. They have written another $6,915.60 in checks to support the two Democrats running in the district, incumbent Delegates Randy Swartzmiller and Ronnie Jones. That puts the two groups’ spending against McGeehan at $51,193.61. For one reason or another, the other Republican in the race, Mark Zatezalo, hasn’t earned nearly the same level of concern from the liberal groups.

But Republican House candidate Weld, in the Second District, seems to worry them. HWV and PWV have spent a total of 40,780.19 against Weld and for his opponent, incumbent Democrat House member Phillip Diserio.

Dolph Santorine, a Republican House candidate from the Third District in Ohio County, also seems to have earned the two groups’ special enmity. He’s involved in a four-person race for two seats in the House.

Also running is incumbent Delegate Erikka Storch, R-Ohio County, who seems a shoo-in for reelection.

Apparently HWV and PWV are hoping to sling enough mud on Santorine that one of the Democrat candidates, Holli Smith and Shawn Fluharty, can beat him. To that end, the two groups have spent $35,560.24 against Santorine, including a really nasty direct-mail campaign.

This year’s laser-like focus on the House has meant state Senate candidates are out of luck with the independent groups, for the most part.

One exception to that is in the Second Senatorial District, where the groups have spent more than $14,000 backing incumbent Sen. Larry Edgell, the Democrat from New Martinsville. On the other hand, other independents have spent slightly less than $10,000 backing Edgell’s Republican opponent, Monongalia County farmer and Marine veteran Kent Leonhardt. That race will be closer than some people expect.

For sheer spending volume though, the independent groups have targeted Republican House candidates – and our area is ground zero in that no-holds-barred battle.

Myer can be reached at mmyer@ theintelligencer.net.

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