Voters try to beat the heat in West Virginia primary
Sweating it out on the state's hottest day of the year, voters on Tuesday were choosing presidential, gubernatorial, U.S. Senate and U.S. House candidates in West Virginia's Democratic and Republican primaries. They also were deciding a majority of the five-member state Supreme Court. The primary was postponed from May 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic. A rundown of the races and the contenders:
Both Democrat Joe Biden and Republican President Donald Trump have secured their respective parties' nominations, Biden last week and Trump in March.
Incumbent Gov. Jim Justice is trying to secure the Republican nomination against six others, including his former commerce secretary, Woody Thrasher, and ex-state delegate Mike Folk. The other GOP candidates are retired real estate agent Shelby Jean Fitzhugh, real estate and insurance agent Brooke Lunsford, retired Division of Highways administrator Charles Sheedy and farmer Doug Six.
Kanawha County commissioner Ben Salango, state Sen. Ron Stollings and community organizer Stephen Smith are leading a pack of five candidates on the Democratic side. Also running are retired environmental regulatory permit writer Douglas Hughes and FedEx courier Jody Murphy.
The primary serves as the general election for the state Supreme Court, whose races became nonpartisan in 2016. This year's election will determine a majority of the five-member court. There are 10 candidates for three races.
Incumbent Justice Tim Armstead faces 78-year-old former Justice Richard Neely and circuit judge David Hummel. Armstead, a former Republican House speaker, is completing the 12-year term of former Justice Menis Ketchum, who retired in 2018 before House impeachment hearings, later pleaded guilty to a felony fraud count and was sentenced to probation.
Justice Margaret Workman is not seeking reelection. Four candidates are hoping to fill her seat for a new 12-year term: Circuit judge Joanna Tabit, family court judge Jim Douglas, assistant prosecutor Kris Raynes and attorney Bill Wooton
Justice John Hutchison was appointed in 2018 to the seat vacated by former Justice Allen Loughry, who was also convicted in federal court of felony fraud charges and is serving a two-year prison term. Tuesday's special election is for the remainder of Loughry's term, through 2024. Hutchison will face circuit judge Lora Dyer and attorney William Schwartz.
Republican Shelley Moore Capito is seeking her second six-year term in the U.S. Senate. She has two primary challengers: Allen Whitt, president of the Family Policy Council of West Virginia, and former craftsman Larry Butcher.
Capito served seven terms in the U.S. House before becoming the first woman elected to a U.S. Senate seat in West Virginia, in 2014.
The Democratic nomination is being sought by former state Sen. Richard Ojeda, former South Charleston Mayor Richie Robb and Paula Jean Swearengin, a progressive Democrat from a coal-mining family.
This could be the last race for one of the state's three Republican U.S. House members. Analysts have projected West Virginia will lose one of its congressional seats after the 2020 census. The state has lost population for seven straight years.
All three incumbents are seeking reelection this year. David McKinley, who represents the 1st District, has no primary opposition. Alex Mooney, who represents the 2nd District, faces physician Matthew Hahn, while 3rd District Rep. Carol Miller will take on Russell Siegel of Lewisburg.
Democratic candidates include attorney Tom Payne and software company employee Natalie Cline in the 1st District; unopposed energy analyst Cathy Kunkel in the 2nd District; and four contenders in the 3rd District: Huntington bus service CEO Paul Davis, labor union executive Jeff Lewis, Hilary Turner of Huntington and doctoral student Lacy Watson.
Republican Patrick Morrisey, seeking a third term, has no primary opposition. In November, he will face the winner of the Democratic primary between state Delegate Isaac Sponaugle and attorney Sam Petsonk.
Republican incumbent Kent Leonhardt, seeking his second term, is up against farmer Roy Ramey on Tuesday. The Democratic candidates are state Sen. Bob Beach, farmer J.R. Keplinger and Dave Miller, a former deputy agriculture commissioner.
Half of the 34 state Senate seats are up for grabs. Seven incumbents have primary opposition, while four senators, including three Democrats, are not seeking reelection. Republicans hold a 20-14 majority.
All 100 House seats are on the ballot; 41 incumbents are in contested races. Twenty delegates are not seeking reelection. Republicans hold a 58-41 House majority with one independent.
Secretary of State Mac Warner said he knew of no significant or unusual problems at voting places Tuesday. It was the hottest day of the year so far in West Virginia, with temperatures reaching the mid-90s in some communities. Warner's office asked voters to bring bottled water, umbrellas and even a chair in case they encountered long lines and had to stand outside at polling places.
Voters were asked to wear masks — some places will have them available — and bring their own marking devices such as a pencil or stylus to use with their ballots. The measures are aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus.
ON TO NOVEMBER
Warner is running unopposed in the GOP primary and will face Democrat Natalie Tennant on Nov. 3. Tennant, also unopposed, served two terms as secretary of state before losing to Warner in 2016.
West Virginia’s longest-serving state treasurer, John Perdue, is unopposed in the Democratic primary and is seeking his seventh term in the fall. In November he will face Republican Riley Moore, a former delegate.
Republican incumbent JB McCuskey and Democratic challenger Mary Ann Claytor will square off in the November race for state auditor. Each is unopposed in the primary. Claytor is a former auditor's office employee who lost to McCuskey in 2016.