Some of the 10 incumbents in House of Delegates races in Kanawha County's 30th, 31st, and 32nd Delegate districts faced nail-biters against a host of challengers today.
That was highlighted by a neck-in-neck race in the single-member 31st District, where incumbent Delegate Carrie Webster trailed newcomer Meshea L. Poore by a 51-49 percent margin, with 40 percent of votes counted.
Poore led with 911 votes to Webster's 882.
Webster, the House Judiciary chairwoman, faced an aggressive and spirited challenge from Poore, a Kanawha County public defender.
During the campaign, Poore stressed her ability to be a voice for the residents of the 31st, made up of the urban flats of Charleston's West Side, downtown and East End, and originally conceived as a minority influence district.
Webster, a Charleston lawyer, emphasized her ability to influence legislation affecting the district as chairwoman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee. She said she has remained true to her core issues of civil rights, workers' rights and consumer rights with her ascension to a House leadership position.
There were no Republican challengers in the 31st District today.
In the seven-member 30th, covering southern Kanawha County, a total of 17 Democrats and eight Republicans sought their party's nominations for the district's seven House seats.
Early returns gave healthy leads to incumbent Delegates Danny Wells, Bobbie Hatfield, Bonnie Brown and Sharon Spencer, running in the top four spots.
Former Delegate Mark Hunt, who gave up his seat in 2006 to run for Congress, was running fifth, followed by Charleston businessman Doug Skaff Jr., who topped all House candidates with campaign expenditures and whose public support from Gov. Joe Manchin generated some consternation among incumbents.
Nervously clinging to the seventh position was Delegate Nancy Peoples Guthrie, running about 1,300 votes ahead of Barbara A. Lacy.
Incumbent Delegate Dave Higgins, appointed to the House in 2007 after an unsuccessful bid for the state Senate in 2006, appeared in trouble in ninth place.
Trailing the field were a number of challengers, including long-time state Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Brenda Nichols Harper, Charleston lawyer Roger Decanio, and high school student Cody Britton, Jim Canterbury, Timothy Cooper, Barbara A. Lacy, Jerry Mollohan, Doris Rose and Jeff Wood.
On the Republican side, eight candidates competed for the seven nominations today.
With early returns, Fred Joseph, Charleston City Councilman John Miller, E.C. "Bud" Anderson and retired Public Service Commission analyst Todd Carden appeared headed to a primary win, with Charleston lawyer and former nurse Victoria Casey, Edward R. Burgess, Lance Byron Vaughn, and Elijah Young.
In the three-member 32nd District, a traditional Republican stronghold, the three incumbents -- House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, and Delegates Patrick Lane and Ron Walters -- ran unopposed in the Republican primary.
Armstead turned out at Voters' Registration today to watch returns, anyway.
"It's fun to be a spectator," he said.
Meanwhile, five Democrats vied for three nominations -- and the uphill battle of winning in the conservative northern and western Kanawha County district in November.
Cross Lanes accountant Jon W. Cain led the early returns with 2,243 votes, followed by Elkview teacher Carmela Ryan-Robinson, with 2,148, and Charles Black, with 1,428. West Virginia State University student Clint Casto and Curtis Robinson trailed with 1,353 and 999 votes, respectively.