Charleston attorney Nick Casey will hold a news conference this afternoon where he is expected to announce that he’s running for the Democratic nomination for the 2nd Congressional District seat in 2014. The seat will be open because current U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito is running for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate next year.
Casey has been involved in politics for much of his adult life. He served as state Democratic Party Chairman from 2004-2010. Casey is closely tied to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and has worked as his campaign treasurer twice (1996 and 2004). Before that, he was treasurer for the late Mario Palumbo’s gubernatorial race in 1992.
But Casey has never run for office himself… until now.
The timing appears right for Casey. At 59, he’s old enough to have raised his family (his two children are grown) and become a partner in a successful law firm (Lewis Glasser Casey and Rollins), but he is still young enough to start a second career.
Capito’s departure gives the Democrats a chance to reclaim a seat that’s been held by the GOP since 2001. Plenty of Democrats are thinking about getting in the race.
Kanawha County House of Delegates member Doug Skaff says he’s 90 percent sure he’s running. Another Kanawha County Delegate, Meshea Poore, is also considering it.
Rod Snyder from Jefferson County, who is president of the Young Democrats of America, says he may get in the race, and another Jefferson County resident, Matt Dunn, says he’s running.
But Casey becomes the first viable Democrat to declare. He will have several things going for him.
As a former party chairman, Casey is well-connected throughout the sprawling 2nd District, which stretches from the Ohio River across West Virginia to the tip of the state’s eastern panhandle. Casey should know most of the Democratic players in each county.
He has some personal wealth. I’m told he’s willing to spend up to $500,000 of his own money. That’s not enough to win, but it shows he is a serious candidate, which makes it easier to raise money.
Casey should be good on the campaign trail. He’s a personable guy with an easy smile. His self-deprecating humor and his willingness to not take himself too seriously should play well with voters.
On the downside, Casey’s job as party chairman was to extol the virtues of all candidates, including President Barack Obama, who remains unpopular in West Virginia. Opponents will have plenty of quotes to use against Casey.
Also, while Casey is well-connected, he’s not that well-known. He’s going to have to spend a lot of shoe leather and money introducing himself to voters, especially in the eastern panhandle.
Casey’s close ties with Manchin could be a double-edged sword. There’s already some pushback by those who think the Senator’s political tentacles extend to too many areas of the state. Casey will have to establish that he’s his own man.
And finally, the 2nd will have had a Republican representative for 14 years by the time next year’s election rolls around. Whoever makes it to the general election from the Democratic Party is going to have to convince a majority of voters in the red-leaning district that it’s time to go blue again.