CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In a contentious race in the state Senate's redrawn 8th District, Republican Chris Walters was poised to defeat Democrat challenger Joshua Martin on Tuesday night.
With 83 of 87 precincts reporting in Kanawha and Putnam counties, Walters had 18,359 votes to Martin's 16,303 votes.
"My opponent and I ran a very competitive race," Walters said Tuesday night. "I now look forward to working on issues in the Legislature."
During the bitter campaign, Walters and Martin locked horns over Martin's past as a professional wrestler.
A decade ago, sexually explicit comments were posted on a pro wrestling website message board under Martin's former wrestling alias, "Silver Bullet Chris Sterling." The comments degraded teen girls, the mentally handicapped and women with breast cancer.
Martin said the offensive remarks were posted by writers for the wrestling show.
Martin also accused Walters of passing out copies of the explicit comments to Charleston media outlets and Martin's employer, a Charleston law firm. Martin alleged that Walters' campaign tried to blackmail him and force him to drop out of the race.
Walters said he knew about the wrestling message posts but said his campaign did not distribute copies of the offensive comments.
Martin and Walters later traded barbs over Walters' position on gay rights.
Walters told Gazette editors that he supported adding sexual orientation to West Virginia's hate-crimes law. Martin called Walters a liar, citing a West Virginia Family Foundation survey in which he said he opposed legislation that would make "the homosexual lifestyle" a civil-rights status in West Virginia.
Walters clarified that he would not support a hate-crimes law that singles out gays.