CHARLESTON – Republican Patrick Morrisey on Tuesday defeated his incumbent rival Darrell McGraw, to become the first West Virginia Attorney General elected from the Eastern Panhandle.
Just before midnight, Morrisey issued a victory statement. With 36 of West Virginia’s 55 counties reporting their numbers to the secretary of state’s office, Morrisey had a lead of more than 8,200 votes.
In Jefferson County, according to unofficial results from Tuesday’s voting, Morrisey captured more than 60 percent of the vote compared to slightly more than 39 percent for McGraw. Morrisey had 12,710 votes to McGraw’s 8,274 votes.
“With your help, West Virginia made a significant change tonight that was long overdue,” Morrisey said in his statement. “I’m honored and humbled to have been chosen as your next attorney general, and promise that I will carry out the duties of that office in an honorable and effective manner.”
Morrisey, a 44-year-old regulatory lawyer from Harpers Ferry, prevented McGraw in his try for a record sixth term. He centered his campaign on questions about McGraw’s spending and ethics in office. He has never held public office before.
Morrisey last ran for office in 2000. For that campaign, Morrisey relocated from D.C. to his native New Jersey to run in a four-way primary for an open seat in the Seventh District of Congress.
From 1999 to 2004, Morrisey served as the Deputy Staff Director and Chief Health Care Counsel to the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee.
In 2006, Morrisey bought his home in Jefferson County. He was admitted to the West Virginia Bar just four days before throwing his hat in the ring for Attorney General – a timeline that became campaign fodder for Democrats.
Prior to his run for Attorney General, Morrisey had long worked in corporate law in D.C., at times representing the pharmaceutical and tobacco industries.
McGraw, a native of Wyoming County and West Virginia University grad who turns 76 this week, served on the state Supreme Court starting in 1976. He lost a bid for re-election in 1988 and was out of politics until his 1992 run for Attorney General.
As AG, McGraw won more than $2 billion for West Virginia, for violations of state consumer laws. His best-known win came with the 1998 suit against 23 cigarette firms for the enormous medical bills they pass along to state taxpayers.
Then-Gov. Gaston Caperton, Circuit Judge Irene Berger and many others opposed the action, but McGraw endured – and ending up securing $1.7 billion for the state plus $200 million more in a related suit.
During the campaign, Morrisey tied McGraw to President Barack Obama, perhaps the most unpopular Democratic president in West Virginia in the state’s 149-year history.
“For too long, this state has been under attack from the Environmental Protection Agency and overreaching laws and regulations, such as Obamacare,” Morrisey said Tuesday night. “These Obama policies have harmed West Virginia. It’s now time for West Virginia’s attorney general to fight back.
“We have a bold vision for what the office of attorney general can do to protect jobs and consumers in this state, improve West Virginia’s business and legal climate, and advance ethics reform. We will soon begin to execute that plan in a manner that will make West Virginia proud.”
Morrisey also praised McGraw.
“I’d like to congratulate Attorney General McGraw for a spirited campaign,” he said. “He has spent a long career in public service, and for that we should be grateful.”