CHESTER - Chester resident Pat McGeehan is pulling out of the race for U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller's long-held seat and is entering the race for West Virginia delegate for District 1.
McGeehan, 34, of Chester, made the announcement "with a heavy heart" over the weekend, citing family concerns as his main reason for ending his Republican campaign for the U.S. Senate.
"Over the past several weeks, my family has been going through an unexpected trying time, one that will require my attention and support for the next several months," he said. "Family must come first, and I cannot in good conscience continue a statewide race."
McGeehan said he will not endorse the Republican frontrunner, U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-Charleston, or any other candidate for the seat that Rockefeller is vacating. Capito's main Democratic challenger is West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant.
McGeehan got into the Senate race in April 2013, saying that West Virginians needed a conservative alternative in the 2014 election. "I am a pro-life, pro-gun, pro-coal conservative who believes government today is too overreaching," he said at the time.
Although McGeehan's statewide campaign seemed to be resonating with some West Virginia voters, it did not have the visibility or financial backing of Capito's campaign. McGeehan raised only $7,000 in the third quarter of 2013 and had $8,000 in cash on hand, according to the Federal Election Commission.
McGeehan's decision to enter the House of Delegates race for District 1 puts him in more familiar territory. He was a Republican delegate for the 1st District - Hancock County and part of Brooke County - from 2008 to 2010.
McGeehan is seeking one of the West Virginia House of Delegates seats currently held by incumbent Dels. Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock, and Ronnie D. Jones, D-Hancock, who both are running for re-election. McGeehan's Republican challenger in the May 13 primary is Mark Zatezalo, 62, of Weirton.
"There's a lot of work to be done at the state level, and I feel a sense of duty and commitment to submit my name," McGeehan said. "I believe in the virtues of constitutional government, and I'd still like to be able to aid in that cause and help the folks around here."
McGeehan did not seek re-election to the House in 2010, opting instead to run for the West Virginia Senate District 1 seat vacated by former state Sen. Ed Bowman and losing the Republican primary. He ran in District 1 again in 2012 and lost in November to incumbent Sen. Jack Yost, D-Brooke.
If elected this year, McGeehan said he would pursue, among other things, a bill prohibiting the federal government from deploying the West Virginia National Guard to any conflict overseas without a declaration of war by Congress.
"Forbidding the federal government from ignoring the highest law in the land can establish a precedent - one which may pave the way for other states to do the same," McGeehan said, "and begin to push accountability on Washington, D.C."
McGeehan predicted the Republicans will pick up some seats in the November election and gain the majority in the House of Delegates. Democrats currently are in the majority, with 54 out of 100 seats.
"We must have solid leadership to move (the House) away from the good-old boy policies of the past and toward policies framed around the message our Founding Fathers provided," he said.
Prior to his involvement in local politics, McGeehan served as an intelligence officer in the Air Force and did a tour of duty in the Middle East and Afghanistan. He is a 1998 graduate of Oak Glen High School and a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.