There were no surprising outcomes in last week’s primary election in West Virginia. The biggest disappointment was that only one of every four registered voters bothered to show up at the polls — the lowest turnout for a primary election for this state in 60 years. The previous worst turnout in more than half a century was a 39 percent voter turnout for the 2004 primary election.
The two most interesting primary election contests were well established even before early voting got under way. Campaign advertising by candidates running for the two open 12-year terms on the Supreme Court of Appeals and the five-way race for the Democratic nomination for Commissioner of Agriculture captured the spotlight.
State Sen. Walt Helmick, who has been in the state Senate for 22 years, won the Democrat party’s nomination for commissioner of agriculture with some effective last-minute campaign advertising. He defeated second-place finisher Steve Miller, a veteran member of the team of retiring Agriculture Commissioner Gus Douglass. Despite Douglass’ endorsement, Miller still finished more than 15,000 votes behind Helmick.
The two biggest campaign spenders in the battle of six Democrats for the two Supreme Court nominations — incumbent Robin Davis and newcomer Tish Chafin — emerged as the winners over the four men in the field by a sizable margin.
State legislative races featured mostly incumbents from both parties seeking new terms and virtually all of them won with ease. With all 100 seats in the House of Delegates up for grabs as well as half of the 34 seats in the state Senate, only two current legislators seeking another term didn’t make it.
State Sen. Richard Browning, D-Wyoming, who is the majority whip for Senate President Jeff Kessler’s leadership team, lost a close race to Daniel J. Hall, currently a member of the House of Delegates representing the 22nd Delegate District. The other incumbent legislator who lost was Delegate Joe Talbott, D-Webster, who represents the 36th Delegate District.
In the three congressional races, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito received nearly 80 percent of the Republican vote to demolish two GOP challengers in the 2nd District. Neither Rep. Nick J. Rahall, a longtime Democrat congressman representing the 3rd District, or Rep. David McKinley, the Republican incumbent in the 1st District, had any primary opposition. And McKinley’s Democratic foe in November, Sue Thorn, also ran unopposed.
Raleigh County resident Rick Snuffer, currently a member of the House of Delegates, was an easy winner in a three-way race to become the Republican challenger to Rahall in November.
U. S. Sen. Joe Manchin swamped his lone primary election opponent by a 4-1 margin in his race for another term while Republican John Raese was unopposed for the GOP nomination to challenge Manchin again. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin captured the Democratic nomination and Republican Bill Maloney won the Republican nomination to set up a November rematch between the two for a full-four year term as governor.
Meanwhile, does anyone out there really think any registered Democrat voters cast their ballot for Keith Judd in last week’s primary election because they want him, not incumbent President Barack Obama, to be president for the next four years? Indeed, most of those questioned by reporters after the votes were counted didn’t even know Judd or realize he’s currently serving time in a Texas prison.
Clearly it was a vote against the incumbent president and another indication Obama will not carry West Virginia in the November general election because many registered Democrats in this state consider him to be too liberal. Unfortunately, there are also still some voters who harbor a bias against people with a skin color different from their own.
And when those Democrats cross over to cast their votes for Mitt Romney in November they will not be indicating that they are doing it because they think Romney is more likely to get this country back on the right track economically. They will be voting against his opponent just as they did four years ago when this state gave Republican presidential candidate John McCann a sizable majority.
And most are not racist. Their allegiance to the Democratic Party in West Virginia is based on recent history that has created two classes of Democrats — those who support the party in all races and those who pick and choose their selections, voting for Republicans when they personally find their own party candidate to be undesirable.
FINALLY, one of the two Republicans nominated for a seat on the State Supreme Court in the November general election is Allen Loughry, currently working as a law clerk for the court. As one of the four candidates competing for two seats on the court, Loughry will be the only one entitled to take advantage of the new plan for public financing of election campaigns. He will have access to at least $400,000 of matching public funding for his campaign.
But that is hardly going to be a match for the two Democrat nominees, especially Tish Chafin who had spent $1 million of her own money according to reports filed weeks before the primary election. This will be the first use of the new law on public campaign financing approved by the state legislature.