Looking back on the year at the Statehouse, top stories and events of 2012 (in no particular order of significance):
• Election rematches that weren't much in the way of matches. The 2012 general election featured rematches of special elections of the prior two years for U.S. Senate (Sen. Joe Manchin versus John Raese) and governor (Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin versus Bill Maloney).
Manchin trounced Raese, an outcome that the Morgantown millionaire seemed to acknowledge by scaling back campaign advertising in the fall (save for an infamous nine-minute "infomercial" that aired on his MetroNews statewide radio network).
Likewise, Tomblin doubled his margin of victory over Maloney, as the political action arm of the Republican Governors Association opted to spend less than $1 million on Tomblin attack ads (compared to $3.4 million in the 2011 special election.)
Maloney only ponied up $1.81 million of his own money this time (about 62 percent of his total campaign financing), compared to $2.45 million (about 75 percent) in the special election.
• The biggest Election Day upset: Little-known Supreme Court clerk Allen Loughry, relying primarily on a limited amount of public financing, overcame better-known and better-financed candidates to win a 12-year term on the state's high court.
Loughry proved that a candidate can win not only with public financing, but by running an entirely positive, upbeat campaign.
No joy on California Avenue, as Darrell McGraw lost his bid for a sixth term as attorney general and Jorea Marple was subsequently fired as state superintendent of schools.
Most observers thought McGraw would eke out yet another victory, especially since Republican challenger Patrick Morrisey did not seem to be a particularly formidable candidate -- and carried the baggage of being a relatively new transplant to West Virginia.
However, that was before outside interest groups spent some $6 million in attack ads on McGraw and McGraw ran a particularly poor campaign, relying on mailers and public appearances -- and at his nadir, was videotaped asking a Morrisey "tracker" if he was a stalker and then grabbing the video camera.
As for making sense of the implausible, the best explanation for Marple's ouster was that it was intended to eliminate a potential high-ranking ally of the teachers' unions in the 2013 session, as the Legislature addresses recommendations in the education audit on such matters as merit pay raises and promotions for teachers.