Wednesday, February 3, 2016

West Virginia features packed ballot for 2016 election

(AP) — The ballot is almost set for a pivotal election in West Virginia.

Aside from the presidential race, the 2016 election features an open governor's race, contested fields for statewide constitutional offices, a crowded Supreme Court bid and legislative races.

Since candidates were able to file via mail postmarked by the end of Saturday, some candidate paperwork still may come in.

Some third-party candidates can also still get on the ballot through a nominating convention or by collecting petitions.

Here's a breakdown of who is running.


Senate President Bill Cole is poised to cruise uncontested to the Republican nomination. The Democratic field is more cluttered.

Jim Justice, a billionaire coal businessman and owner of The Greenbrier resort, has already peppered TV airwaves with positive ads.

Fresh off a conviction of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin made a late entry into the contest.

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, likely the most progressive option, was the first to open his fundraising account, and the last to jump in the race officially last month.
Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is hitting a two consecutive term limit.


Democrats hold four of the five other statewide constitutional offices, with one Democrat not running for re-election.

Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is seeking his second term and will face Democratic Del. Doug Reynolds, a businessman who announced his bid last month and immediately bought TV ad time. As of last spring, Morrisey had $546,000 in a state campaign account, including a $250,000 self-loan.

Longtime Democratic Auditor Glen Gainer won't seek another term. Republican Del. JB McCuskey has an uncontested primary. A three-way Democratic contest includes former Secretary of Administration Jason Pizatella, former auditor's office employee Mary Ann Claytor and Robin Righter of Shinniston.

After losing a 2014 U.S. Senate bid against Republican Shelley Moore Capito, Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant is running for a third term. Del. Patsy Trecost will challenge Tennant in the Democratic primary. Republicans are rallying around Mac Warner, a former civilian contractor in Afghanistan and Army veteran. He first faces Barry Holstein, a fellow veteran running as a Republican.

Democratic Treasurer John Perdue has no primary contest, but two Republicans are seeking his job. Banker Ann Urling and Del. Larry Faircloth are facing off in the GOP primary.

And in a rematch from 2012, Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick faces a challenge from GOP Sen. Kent Leonhardt.


Justice Brent Benjamin faces a much different election than when he ran 12 years ago.
Benjamin won as a Republican in 2004, buoyed by millions of dollars spent by Don Blankenship to oust former Democratic Justice Warren McGraw.

This time, Blankenship's former political consultants are rallying around Morgantown attorney Beth Walker. Benjamin is now using a public campaign financing option.

McGraw's brother, former Democratic attorney general and one-time Supreme Court Justice Darrell McGraw, surprised many by announcing a bid for the seat as well.

Also in the mix are Wayne King and former state lawmaker Bill Wooton, who is using the public financing option.

The five-way race will be nonpartisan for the first time, and will be decided during the May primary.


Republicans are defending all three U.S. House seats this election.
Rep. David McKinley is facing a challenge from former Democratic Del. Mike Manypenny in the northern 1st District.

In the 3rd District, which snakes through the southern coalfields, Rep. Evan Jenkins is matched up against former Secret Service Agent Matt Detch, a Democrat.

Rep. Alex Mooney has more competition in the 2nd District. His primary opponent is Republican Marc Savitt, who ran for the U.S. House unsuccessfully in Virginia in 2014.

Five Democrats are running in the district that stretches from the Ohio River to the Eastern Panhandle: Army veteran Cory Simpson, former Del. Mark Hunt, Martinsburg resident Tom Payne, attorney Harvey Peyton and Robin Wilson of the West VirginiaCitizen Action Group.


Republicans have to defend legislative majorities they snagged for the first time in more than eight decades after the 2014 election.

The GOP majority stands at 18-16 in the Senate and 64-36 in the House.

In the Senate, three Democrats and one Republican won't seek re-election this year. 

Eighteen seats are in play, including one unexpired term, and all races are contested by the opposing party. Three Republican appointees face their first elections as senators.

In the House, where all 100 seats are on the ballot, nine House Republicans and seven Democrats haven't filed for re-election.