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Incumbents fall in West Virginia state primaries

CHARLESTON (AP) — Five incumbent statehouse Democrats and one Republican delegate fell to challengers from their own parties in Tuesday’s primaries.

The election cemented November matchups that will dictate whether Republicans can overtake the House of Delegates. Democrats have maintained power in the lower chamber for 85 years, but the state has taken a conservative turn.

The entire 100-seat House of Delegates is up for grabs this year with a six-seat Democratic majority on the line. Fewer than half of the 67 House of Delegates districts featured any primary challenge.

Only four of 17 Senate seats on the ballot included primary contests — two Democratic, two Republican. Democrats maintain a 24-10 majority in the Senate.

Democratic Sen. Sam Cann lost his seat in West Virginia’s priciest statehouse primary race. Harrison County Commissioner Mike Romano shelled out $137,000 in his quest to defeat Cann. Cann spent $73,800 defending his Harrison County-anchored seat.

Romano will face Republican Mike Queen in the 12th District race. Queen has raised about $14,400 and spent $8,000 so far.

A UPS delivery man and a 17-year-old high school student were among the candidates that ousted sitting House lawmakers.

A primary win by Ralph Rodighiero, a Democrat and UPS employee, will cost either Del. Rupert Phillips or Ted Tomblin a seat. The two were essentially tied for the second of two primary slots.

Saira Blair, a 17-year-old Hedgesville High School senior, sealed a November contest by knocking off Del. Larry Kump convincingly. She will face Democrat Layne Diehl for the Morgan and Berkeley seat.

Harrison County produced the most expensive House of Delegates primary race, resulting in a loss for a Democratic Del. Ron Fragale. Fourteen Democrats and Republicans were vying for four seats and spent $131,000 combined in the 48th District.

Democrat Mark Hunt of Kanawha County also fell in a multimember bid where former state House member Larry Rowe garnered the most votes.

Democratic Del. Tim Kinsey of Wayne also lost his primary bid.

Four other races were too close to call.

Republicans have fielded candidates for 116 of 117 statehouse slots this cycle. The GOP can essentially claim 19 seats unopposed by other parties — one held by Sen. Mike Hall, R-Putnam, and 18 in the House.

Democrats will win one House seat without opposition.

There are eight open House seats after five Democrats and three Republicans decided against re-election bids.

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