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It’s Democrat vs. Democrat

October 27, 2012
By MIKE MYER , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

In some ways this is one of the strangest elections I recall in some time at the state level in West Virginia.

During the past week, Ohio County voters have been treated to the spectacle of two Democrat candidates for the House of Delegates at odds with each other instead of their Republican opponents.

The situation in the 3rd Delegate District, which includes most of Ohio County, is that incumbent Delegate Ryan Ferns, a Democrat, and incumbent Delegate Erikka Storch, a Republican, are up for re-election.

Another Democrat, Shawn Fluharty and another Republican, Larry Tighe, also are on the ballot.

It's common knowledge many Republican leaders don't like Tighe and some are supporting Ferns openly. But during the past several days, Fluharty has been running advertising attacking Ferns. To make it even more interesting, the ads aren't issue-oriented, but are negative personal attacks.

Most folks I've talked with seem to think Storch is a shoe-in for re-election. She's so popular that several organized labor organizations, traditionally the foes of Republican candidates, are supporting her financially.

If Storch indeed has her seat locked up, that would leave one opening in Ohio County, and Fluharty apparently has decided to throw party loyalty to the winds and focus on beating his fellow Democrat.

Despite that, Ferns has a reputation for being the more pragmatic of the two Democrats, often willing to work with Republicans if he believes it will benefit the district and state.

Often, name recognition is one of the biggest obstacles to Republicans running for legislative positions in West Virginia. But it isn't a big factor in the race for a seat in the House of Delegates from the 2nd District, including Brooke and part of Ohio counties.

Republican Lynn Davis of Wellsburg is challenging incumbent Phillip Diserio, a Follansbee Democrat. Diserio hasn't been in office long; he was appointed to the House earlier this year to replace former Delegate Tim Ennis, who left to take a Brooke County Commssion post.

Davis, whose positions include both tax and education reform, has been pounding the pavement and knocking on doors at a rapid pace.


Speaking of door-to-door campaigning, it would be difficult to keep up with Pat McGeehan, the Republican attempting to unseat incumbent state Sen. Jack Yost of the 1st District, which includes Brooke, Hancock and Ohio counties. McGeehan reportedly has knocked on around 6,000 Northern Panhandle doors.

With the state encountering budget problems - in large measure because of federal government actions - McGeehan's fiscally conservative stance ought to appeal to many area voters.

Apparently, he's had problems at two stops, however. He's been bitten by one dog and had to dive off a porch to avoid another.


Fairview, W.Va., farmer Kent Leonhardt is another candidate receiving quite a bit of cross-party support.

Leonhardt is a Republican running for state agriculture commissioner against veteran Democrat politician Walt Helmick.

What's especially interesting in that race is that, had Helmick received the endorsement of incumbent Agriculture Commissioner Gus Douglass, he'd have been the hands-down favorite. And Douglass, also a Democrat, might have been expected to endorse Helmick.

To date, he has refused to endorse either candidate. But it's telling that in the primary election, Douglass endorsed Democrat candidate Steve Miller, who lost to Helmick.

Many Mountain State farmers can't remember a time when Douglass wasn't agriculture commissioner. He's been in the position for 11 terms. So what he does - or doesn't do - carries weight.

Myer can be reached via e-mail at

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