Mix of contests await state primary voters
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's primary election Tuesday appears short on major contests but it sets the stage for a high-stakes November.
The two-seat state Supreme Court race is among those where choices await. Democrats must pick two from a field that features Justice Robin Davis, former State Bar President Tish Chafin, Circuit Judges Jim Rowe and J.D. Beane, Supreme Court law clerk Louis Palmer, and New Martinsville lawyer H. John Rogers.
Circuit Judge John Yoder and Allen Loughry, a Supreme Court law clerk, are both assured a GOP nomination for those seats.
Five Democrats, meanwhile, seek their party's nod for a chance to succeed retiring Agriculture Commissioner Gus Douglass. A number of the other offices at or near the top of the ballot, however, have unopposed candidates or incumbents favored over poorly funded opponents.
It's the general election races, though, that are expected to include a key pair of rematches.
After losing in 2010, Republican John Raese has no rival Tuesday as he again seeks to challenge U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who must first face ex-lawmaker Sheirl Fletcher in the Democratic primary. At stake is a full six-year term for the seat once long held by Robert C. Byrd. Manchin won the 2010 special election held after Byrd's death.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, and the GOP's Bill Maloney each face lesser-known rivals Tuesday but are poised to advance. Tomblin narrowly defeated Maloney in last year's special election for the governor's seat vacated by Manchin.
The office is now up for a full four years. The race has also attracted Democrat Arne Moltis and Republican Ralph William Clark.
U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito must overcome two fellow Republicans, Michael Davis and state Delegate Jonathan Miller, in her quest for a seventh term. Democrats must pick from among Dugald Brown, William McCann and Howard Swint in that 2nd Congressional District.
U.S. Reps. Nick Rahall, a Democrat, and freshman David McKinley, a Republican, are unopposed Tuesday. Sue Thorn is assured the Democratic nomination to take on McKinley in the 1st District. Third District Republicans will select Rahall's challenger from among Lee Bias, Bill Lester and Delegate Rick Snuffer.
The Democrats running for the agriculture post are department officials Steve Miller and Bob Tabb, retired official Joe Messineo, state Sen. Walt Helmick and Sally Shepherd, a former conservation district official.
Besides Tomblin and Douglass, Democrats also occupy the other four statewide executive branch offices. These other incumbents are unopposed in the primary. So are the Republican candidates for these posts, with one exception. Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall and Putnam County assistant prosecutor Steve Connolly are both running to challenge Treasurer John Perdue.
Voters must also select nominees in the newly redrawn legislative districts. All 100 seats in the House of Delegates are up this year. So is half the 34-member Senate. But a number of legislative candidates are running in the primary unopposed. Just six of the 17 Senate seats have contested races, for instance, all of them on the Democratic ballot. Democrats hold a majority of seats in both chambers.
Republican voters are expected to endorse their party's presumed presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. The GOP primary will also send 28 delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Three will come from each of the congressional districts, while 19 are at-large. President Barack Obama tops the Democratic ballot as he campaigns for a second term.
More than 60,800 voters have already cast early in-person or absentee ballots, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said Monday. That's down from the 2008 primary by about 10,000 votes. The state's elections chief, Tennant was not projecting a primary turnout but planned to keep her office open Tuesday and send staff around the state to ensure voting goes smoothly and to field any reports of fraud.
"If people see things with their own eyes and if they have first-hand knowledge of something, then by all means give us a call,'' said Jake Glance, Tennant's spokesman.
The primary will also decide two seats on each of the 55 counties' nonpartisan school boards, and determine nominees for such county offices as commission, sheriff and magistrate.