CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In a matter of three months, Morgantown businessman Bill Maloney has gone from political unknown to the Republican Party's nominee in the special election for West Virginia's governor.
Maloney handily defeated seven challengers in Saturday's special primary election, including the presumptive early favorite, former secretary of state Betty Ireland.
Maloney, who calls himself a true conservative, topped the primary field with 27,546 votes -- 45 percent -- to Ireland's 18,876.
The rest of the field finished far behind, led by Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, with 5,848 votes; Putnam County prosecutor Mark Sorsaia, at 2,956; former Berkeley County delegate Larry Faircloth, 2,376; Delegate Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, 2,061; West Virginia University professor Ralph Clark, 1,147; and former Westover mayor Cliff Ellis, 277.
On election night, Maloney said he was confident from the campaign's beginning on Feb. 12, when he was the last candidate to file for the special election.
"I felt very good about it the whole time. In the last couple of weeks, things really came together," Maloney said Saturday, prior to addressing his supporters at a victory party in Morgantown.
"This is kind of fun," he said of his first election victory. "My passion for West Virginia got me into this."
Maloney faces state Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin in an Oct. 4 special election to serve what will be the remaining 14 months in the unexpired term of ex-Gov. Joe Manchin, who stepped down Nov. 15 to serve in the U.S. Senate.
The state Supreme Court ordered the special election in January, ruling that Tomblin could not continue to act as governor for the duration of the unexpired term.
Maloney said he will use the same strategy in the fall race, pledging to run a "fully funded, aggressive campaign."
"We'll run the same kind of aggressive campaign we did this time," he said. "We'll win in October, and give state government back to the people."
Despite an eight-candidate field, the election boiled down early to a race between Ireland, a former secretary of state and the first Republican woman to win a statewide election, and Maloney, a millionaire businessman making his first run for elected office.