W.Va. primaries to include little drama
WHEELING – Much of the drama surrounding the 2014 election will have to wait until November as the majority of races affecting the Northern Panhandle – with a few exceptions – already are set following Saturday’s election filing deadline in West Virginia.
The most notable of those exceptions is a six-deep slate of candidates in the race to succeed U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who will not seek re-election after nearly 30 years in office. Beyond that, the May 13 primary will decide two commission races in Hancock and Marshall counties for which only Democrats filed, as well as non-partisan board of election races in all counties.
There were few surprises as the filing deadline came and went at midnight Saturday, though there is a possibility of additional entries as filings by mail will be accepted as long as they are postmarked by Saturday. Following is a run-down of the major races on the ballot this year.
No Republican has represented West Virginia in the U.S. Senate since 1959, but Rep. Shelley Moore Capito hopes to change that by moving from the House of Representatives, where she’s represented West Virginia’s 2nd District since 2001. She and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant on the Democrat side are the favorites to face off in November, but both face primary challenges in May.
Capito will square off against Larry Eugene Butcher of Washington and Matthew Dodrill of Parkersburg in the Republican primary. Meanwhile, Dennis Melton of Buckhannon and David B. Wamsley of Williamstown will be looking to pull off upsets against Tennant in the Democrat primary.
House of Representatives
The race to represent West Virginia’s 1st District in the U.S. House will pit contestants from both the northern and southern ends of the district against one another in November. Rep. David McKinley, a Republican from Wheeling, will face off against Democrat state Auditor Glen B. Gainer III of Parkersburg. Neither faces a primary contest.
In the 2nd District – wide open due to Capito’s Senate run – two Democrats and seven Republicans are seeking their respective party’s nomination. Democrats in the race are Nick Casey and Del. Meshea Poore of Charleston, while the crowded GOP slate includes Robert Lawrence Fluharty, Steve Harrison, Charlotte Lane, Alex Mooney, Jim Moss, Ken Reed and Ron Walters Jr.
Rep. Nick Rahall, D-Beckley, will seek another term representing the 3rd District. He faces a primary challenge from Richard Ojeda II, while state Sen. Evan Jenkins, R-Cabell, is running unopposed on the GOP ticket.
One of two seats in each of West Virginia’s two northernmost senatorial districts is up for election in 2014.
Del. Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, will be looking to unseat Sen. Rocky Fitzsimmons, a Democrat from Wheeling, who is seeking a full term representing the 1st Senate District after being appointed in 2012 to replace Orphy Klempa. It will be Ferns’ first run for office since switching party affiliation from Democrat to the GOP. The 1st District includes all of Hancock, Brooke and Ohio counties and a portion of Marshall County.
In the 2nd District – which includes parts of Marshall, Monongalia, Marion and Gilmer counties as well as all of Wetzel, Tyler, Doddridge, Ritchie and Calhoun counties – veteran Sen. Larry Edgell, D-New Martinsville, faces a challenge from Monongalia County Republican Kent Leonhardt, who lost a close race for West Virginia agriculture commissioner in 2012.
House of Delegates
Like those running for the state Senate, no one filing to represent the Northern Panhandle in the House of Delegates will face a May primary contest.
Voters in West Virginia’s 1st District, which includes all of Hancock County and northern Brooke County, will select two delegates from a field of four this year. Democrat incumbents Randy Swartzmiller, a 14-year veteran of the House, and Ronnie Jones, who is seeking a third term, both filed to run for re-election.
Seeking to unseat them will be Republicans Pat McGeehan and Mark Zatezalo. McGeehan, a former delegate who ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate in 2012, had announced plans to challenge Capito for the Republican U.S. Senate nod, but changed course and instead decided to file for election to the seat he held from 2009-11. Zatezalo is chairman of the Weirton Redevelopment Authority and is making his first run for elected office.
In the 2nd District, a single-delegate district that covers the rest of Brooke County and a small piece of northern Ohio County, Del. Phil Diserio, a Democrat, will face a challenge in November from Wellsburg resident, military veteran, law student and first-time office-seeker Ryan Weld.
Ferns’ bid for the state Senate means there will be at least one new face representing the 3rd District, which includes most of Ohio County and has two delegates. Incumbent Republican Erikka Storch is seeking a third term, while three others have also entered the race.
Also running on the Republican side is Wheeling businessman Dolph Santorine, who ran unsuccessfully for a House seat in 2010. He and Storch will compete against Democrats Dave Palmer, a city of Wheeling building inspector and retired firefighter, and Wheeling attorney Holli Smith.
Voters in each Northern Panhandle county will fill one open commission seat as well as three board of education seats. Board of education races, which are non-partisan, will be decided during the May 13 primary election.
– Hancock County – The open commission seat will be decided during the primary, barring a successful write-in challenge. Two Democrats have filed in the race, incumbent Dan Greathouse and challenger Joe Barnabei. In the board of education race, incumbents Laura Greathouse, John Manypenny and Toni Hinerman face a challenge from New Cumberland resident Michelle Chappell.
Democrat George Foley – appointed to replace longtime County Clerk Eleanor Straight last year – is running unopposed for election to a full term.
– Brooke County – Incumbent Commissioner Norma Tarr and Board of Education members Chad Haught, James Lazear and Frank Ujcich are all running unopposed in 2014.