Despite the Democrat party’s 2-1 voter registration edge, the Republican Party is alive and well in West Virginia as proven by last Tuesday’s general election results.
Among the GOP candidates who finished as winners were a new justice on the state Supreme Court, the next attorney general and nearly a dozen new seats in the state Legislature.
It’s difficult to say which successful statewide Republican campaign proved to be the biggest surprise. Certainly the election of Allen Loughry to a 12-year term on the five-member Supreme Court of Appeals was a stunner for many. But the win by Patrick Morrisey over Democrat incumbent Attorney General Darrell V. McGraw was also unexpected by most observers.
Finally, the executive director of the West Virginia Republican Party, Chad Holland, indicated before the election that the GOP hoped to pick up eight seats in the 100-member House of Delegates where Democrats now hold a 65-35 advantage. So even he had to be stunned when his party won 11 seats to narrow the Democratic majority in the lower chamber to a modest 54-46 edge.
Across the hall in the state Senate where Democrats hold a 28-6 majority, Republican Bill Cole defeated incumbent Sen. Mark Wills, D-Mercer, in the 10th Senatorial District and Republican Chris Walters beat Democrat Joshua Martin to succeed retiring Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, in the 17th Senatorial District.
It might have been a bigger jump in Republican numbers in the state Senate if the GOP had not failed to even put a challenger on the ballot against the Democratic candidate in seven of the 11 races involving incumbent Democrats.
Of course, it came as no surprise that thousands of registered Democrats who voted for an inmate in a Texas prison in the May primary to avoid marking their ballot for President Barack Obama didn’t change their attitude and helped give Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney a solid victory in this state as well last week.
Loughry was the first and only candidate to take advantage of the state’s new public financing program and received about $350,000 of public money for his campaign before the state Supreme Court struck down a key section of this law. He currently is employed as a law clerk for the court and used his young son, Justus, effectively in his campaign advertising. Loughry is best known by many as the author of a book published in 2006 entitled “Don’t Buy Another Vote, I Won’t Pay for a Landslide.” The book carried the subtitle, “The sordid and continuing history of political corruption in West Virginia.”
Charleston attorney Tish Chafin, the wife of longtime state Sen. Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, spent an estimated $1 million of her own money on the campaign but still finished last in the race behind Berkeley County Circuit Judge John Yoder, a former state senator, who was the other Republican nominee and spent less than $30,000.
Finally, almost lost in the attention devoted to last week’s general election is the fact that state tax revenue collections in October exceeded estimates by nearly $4 million, which all but wiped out a $4.6 million revenue deficit for the first three months of the 2012-2013 state fiscal year.
Since July 1, when the new state budget year began, corporate tax revenues are running more than 20 percent higher than expected. Muchow said that figure currently is nearly $13.9 million ahead of expectations with one-third of the fiscal year completed.