(Editor’s note: Commentary updated at 8:30 am to reflect that sources say Preservati has decided NOT to run.)

Lawyers like to say that trials are often won or lost when the jury is selected; get the right people on the jury and you’ll improve your chances for success.

The parallel in politics is the filing deadline, especially in cases where one party is trying to find a candidate to challenge an incumbent or known quantity.  The political landscape is littered with forgotten names of hopefuls who never had a chance against an established opponent.

And this is the challenge facing the West Virginia Democratic Party for the 2014 U.S. Senate race.  Long-time Senator Jay Rockefeller is not running for re-election.  Surely there should be established Democrats who have been paying their dues, anxiously awaiting a chance.

But there aren’t.

Third District Congressman Nick Rahall thought about running for the Senate, but decided instead to try to win re-election.  West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant’s name has surfaced, but she’s believed to be more interested in running for Governor in 2016.  Robin Davis?  She would have to give up her seat on the state Supreme Court the moment she declared her candidacy, making her entry unlikely.

After that, the names of possible candidates that have surfaced so far are political newcomers.

Ralph Baxter has taken himself out of contention. Baxter is a successful and wealthy attorney who spent most of his adult life in San Francisco, but has returned to his native state to try to make a difference.  However, a political campaign doesn’t fit right now.

“My family and I have decided that this is not the right time for us to seek political office,” he told me on Talkline last week.

Then there is Nick Preservati. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has personally recruited the Charleston lawyer, believing that he can run as a business-friendly, pro-life Democrat who has a strong connection to the coal industry. His father, Dick, is a successful coal operator who made millions when he sold his holdings to Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal.

So Nick Preservati, who is successful in his own right, has access to the kind of money necessary to run a viable campaign.  I’m told he has a deep interest in politics, but sources say now he has decided NOT to run.  Preservati and his wife are adopting a child and, sources say, they have decided that it was not the right time to get into politics.

Who could blame him?

Looming is one of the state’s most formidable political figures—Republican Shelley Moore Capito.  The seven-term Congresswoman from Charleston has already announced her plans to run.  Her presence in the race, and her political success, have even some Democratic players warning would-be candidates of just how big a hill 2014 will be.

Can Capito be defeated? Yes, and for a variety of reasons: she has a record to defend; there are still more Democrats than Republicans here (52% Dem, 29% GOP, 19% Independent or other) and the national Democratic Party is going to fight like mad to keep from losing the seat.

But the likelihood of that happening still depends on the Democrats recruiting a candidate with winning characteristics, including, but not limited to, a fire in their belly, the ability to connect with voters, a clean record and some personal wealth.

Baxter is out, so is Preservati and now the Democrats have to return to the recruitment pool, which will be a wade in the shallows.   The 2014 U.S. Senate race in West Virginia would be among the highest profile races in the country, if the right Democrat gets in.

If not, the race will be over when the filing deadline expires in January.





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  • Russ Snyder

    I've heard that Alan Mollohan is making some noises about running. He could possibly get over his vote on ObamaCare by confessing he'd made a serious mistake (after all, confession is good for the soul).

    He'd have a large advantage over Shelley Capito because he is pro-life and she is "Pro Choice". Alan would get an awful lot of Republican votes and likely carry the day. There are a lot of us out there where the issue of life is the primary issue.....after all, if you don't have life you won't get anything else either!

    • Medman

      Mollohan's track record is questionable. His beach property deals and his big, big I-79 interchange that was going to create a "renaissance" for downtown Fairmont has been pretty much proven to be a pipe dream that only enriched some political buddies in the real estate business. Fairmont now has more interchanges than most cities twice its size. But, it was only $30 or $40 million and that is pocket change for this Federal budget, right?

    • CaptainQ

      Mollohan has too much 'bad political baggage' to make a serious run at Capito. True, he's pro-life but in WV, having ANY connection to President Obama trumps all other issues. Alan would NEVER be able to overcome his 'Yes' vote on ObamaCare, not in 2014. Mollohan got voted out of Congress in the first place partly due to his closeness to Obama so it's not likely that voters will suddenly forget that next year.

  • FungoJoe

    With Sen. Laughtenberg (D-bag NJ) passing away, could it be possible that Gov. Christie would name himself (a la Joe Manchin) to the US Senate?? What happens in NJ, will definitely affect WV's race. If that happened, the D-bags losing another Senate seat, the WV race becomes all the more important for both the R's and the D-baggers. The D-baggers could very well lose the Senate in 2014 and Dingy Harry Reid will be the MINORITY leader. Oh happy day!!!

  • leroy jethro gibbs

    we need another billionaire from new york
    to run maybe bloomberg??

  • Manchin_Junior

    Who to run against Capito? Oh, what a dilemma. NOT! Find a well-known Republican, get them to switch to be a Democrat, and you've got a great Democrat candidate for the US Senate! Sadly, there are no elected Independents in WV, so the Dems can't do a raid there. (Still, the Republican who switches to Democrat really does reflect what the voters of this state prefer, but maybe it's too esoteric for them.)

    • DonaldH

      They already have a democrat that use to be a republican-- Kent Carper--- and all you would have to do is promise Danny Jones unlimited air time on the radio if he ran and he'd switch genders...

  • Shadow

    Why spend all this time worrying about WVians for Senator? Look for another Carpetbagger with money! Their is still time. Maybe you can get Trump? Oops, he is running for President.

  • Hop'sHip

    How about Hoppy running? He use to be a Democrat and he fits the profile of a WV Democrat, which is slightly more progressive than your fundamentalist Republican. Hoppy might need to work on his homophobia, however. And it would help if he took a greater interest in guns. It's not enough to be for others having unencumbered access to guns. You need to show you spend your time on the firing range targeting Obama effigies. But I think he would have a better chance of winning than his benefactor and it would give him an opportunity to serve said benefactor in a new way. And if he is concerned about taking a salary cut, I'm sure his "friends" would find a way to augment the measly amount he would earn as a Senator. Hoppy versus TD. Would make for an entertaining primary fight.

    • GregG

      Yea, and Hoppy could hire Mike Agnello as his campaign strategist. I hear he is available for the job.

  • hughesknight

    The democrats should look no further than former Wyoming County delegate Rick Staton to make a sacrifice and run. He lives to give back to the people of West Virginia. . In today's Phil Kabler Column Staton indicated that he took a $90, 000 job in Charleston. at extreme sacrifice to himself. He took a $2,000 paycut and has to drive 80 miles to and from Charleston cause he can't find a room for his dawg. He didn't say but I assume he will not take the huge increase in his pension base going from a delegate's salary to $90,000. What a sarifice. Since he is apparently not going to take the huge bump up in his pension ,he could use the increased value of his pension stream as collateral, All else that he would need to run against Shelly is a guarantee that as he travels across the state to campaign that there will be hotel rooms that will take his dawg. It would not suprise me one bit to read some day that Bob Graham has got a big state job with a great pension and health benefits.

  • For the good of WV

    I agree with you Capito can be beat

    • wirerowe

      Not in our lifetime

  • CaptainQ

    Hoppy, it's early yet. I wouldn't worry too much about it. Of course, the challenge in WV will be to find a Democratic candidate with ZERO ties to President Obama. This qualification alone would probably eliminate a lot of the 'big name' candidates in the state.

    What the DNC will have to do is pick someone, a relative unknown, and then do a major campaign to make them look good and make Shelley look awful. Their allies in the Main Stream Media will be a great help in this venture, as always.

    So Hoppy, yes, there's no leading Democrat for U.S. Senate NOW, but just give it time. By next year, the DNC will have someone ready to compete, even if they have to 'invent' someone for the role.

  • thornton

    I would suggest either Keith Judd...the inmate from Texas that got some votes a while back or...Danny Jones, as he used to cook a mean rib.
    Hope this helps.

  • Wowbagger

    Harry Reid lost his true calling when somebody who is younger got the job as Director at the only funeral home in town.

    • Wowbagger

      Oops... Sorry for the insult funeral directors! I now recognize yours is too honorable a profession for Harry!

  • TD

    I'm throwing my hat in Hop. My platform?

    1. Require all medical institutions to post their prices for each procedure and test. Require that when you leave the docs office or hospital you have a complete invoice of what the charges are. Captito on the wrong side of that one.

    2. End tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas. Capito on the wrong side of that one.

    3. Promote legislation to entice using natural gas for a bigger part of our transportation fleet, maybe the trucking industry would be a good place to start.

    4. Even the tax code for working people so that people who earn their money through their employment are taxed at the same rate as people who make money off of money. Capito on the wrong side of that one.

    Now apparently all I have to do is prove I can raise money from local WV donors, a million or so. Then the party will send me to DC to introduce me to their big donors where I have to raise more money to be viable. By the time I finish doing that I've already sold my soul and my good platform is gone as I have to pay back my donors through political favors.

    • CaptainQ

      WOW! Sounds like you could fit the role quite well! Contact Harry Reid IMMEDIATELY! (call collect if you have to)

  • Aaron

    I would think a former United Sttes Senator would make a viable candidate. Why us Booth Goodwin not being recruited?

  • Medman

    This problem is not isolated to WV in terms of getting qualified candidates who are willing to waste their lives and reputations by going into the DC cesspool of politics. Just look at the incumbent leadership in the Congress and name one who is a true statesman, rather than hacks who will do anything to retain the power that feeds their egos. To have Harry Reid influencing the selection of any candidate in WV is beyond belief.

    • mntnman

      Well said!!

  • DonaldH

    This looks like a place a Tea Party Democrat would win. If the DNC and Harry Reid can hand pick, of all people, a Lawyer from of all places, San Francisco to run in West Virginia then certainly there is at least one person born a raised in West Virginia who still loves their country and is not ashamed to admit they are a democrat in this state that would run…

    Actually, I jest about the above—But what a sad state of political affairs this nation is in, an outsider as Harry Reid—and make no mistake, it happens on the republican side as well,-- interjects themselves into local politics to hand-pick who best serves “the party” and not the state and the interest and values of the people of a district.

    Shame on “We The People” for letting our politicians pervert our political process to the point that the people in Utah in this instance actually have more clout in picking who we run for office to represent our state than we do.. And is Harry Reid recruiting Preservati to run because of the character of his heart? NO! even though his character may be outstanding for all I know but Harry is looking to him because he has the personal wealth to get elected.—folks, that aint how it’s supposed to work in a representative republic like we were granted by the Founders.. But that is where we are today,,,,

    We all know what is unfolding before our eyes—the disappearance of our republic as it was intended—some of us are pleased for it, some are distraught—but most haven’t a damn clue as to what is happening and even more,, don’t care… I’m no longer convinced that we are a nation of people worth saving--- I’m no longer even sure if we are even a nation of people --

    • GregG

      Like the people that would love to see the word "UNION" taken out of our Preamble?