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Former W.Va. senator: Outside money might impact general election

By Phil Kabler, Staff writer

Former state Sen. Larry Rowe said Wednesday he was pleasantly surprised to top the ticket in the House 36th District Democratic primary, but said he is concerned about how outside money may influence the General Election.

Rowe recalled that when Republicans took control of the Virginia General Assembly, the party committees and outside interests poured large amounts of money into even the smallest House districts.

“They were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in each district,” he said, fearing there will be a similar scenario in West Virginia this fall, with Republicans needing to flip four seats to take control of the House of Delegates.

Rowe took on three incumbents in the primary Tuesday, ultimately knocking Delegate Mark Hunt, D-Kanawha, out of the race in the three-member district.

Rowe said he didn’t understand insinuations by the incumbents that he was violating an unwritten rule of politics by challenging them in the primary.

He said he felt compelled to run to provide representation for eastern Kanawha County.

“Certainly, we’re hurting in the eastern end of Kanawha County,” he said. “Our population numbers are down. We need to focus on jobs and the economy here.”

While Rowe was winning his first primary election in a decade, in Charleston’s 37th Delegate District, Democrat Mike Pushkin won his first election race handily.

“I was surprised by the margin of victory, but in a way, not that surprised knowing how much work we put into it,” he said.

As a musician and taxi driver, Pushkin said he was able to devote a lot of time into the campaign, and that included going door-to-door in the single-member district made up of Charleston’s downtown, East End, and West Side flats.

Frequently, he said, he would campaign from 6:30 in the morning to 7:30 in the evening.

“That’s the same kind of work ethic I want to take to the Capitol,” he said of serving in the Legislature. “It’s a job. Sometimes, I don’t think it’s treated that way.”

While the 37th traditionally has been a strong Democratic district, Pushkin said he won’t be taking anything for granted in the General Election against Republican Charles Minimah.

Pushkin said he plans to regularly seek advice from Delegate Meshea Poore, D-Kanawha, who gave up the seat in the 37th District to run in the 2nd Congressional District primary.

While Pushkin was winning his first primary election, perennial candidate Thornton Cooper actually won nomination in Kanawha’s 35th District, advancing to the General Election for the first time.

Cooper finished fourth in the Democratic primary in the four-member district, and Wednesday credited his nomination to his stand against legislation nullifying gun ordinances in Charleston, South Charleston and other cities in the state.

In campaign spots, Cooper said the legislation, which among other provisions, allows persons with conceal carry permits to bring weapons into community centers and other municipal facilities, was bad public policy.

“Since none of my state senators and none of my delegates voted against the [municipal ordinance] preemption bill, I said, nobody’s representing me,” Cooper said of the legislation’s influence in his decision to run again.

“I said this is it. This is where I draw the line,” said Cooper, who said he invested in billboards and mailers, in addition to radio spots and yard signs in his last all-out try to win the nomination.

“I think for the money I spent, and I was largely self-financed, I got a good bang for the buck,” he said.

Cooper faces a tough General Election field that includes three incumbent Republicans, and said he anticipates Republican committees and pro-Republican outside interests will be pouring money into the race, and said Democratic counterparts need to answer that.

“They absolutely have a stake in us maintaining a Democratic majority in the House,” he said.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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