The West Virginia Republican Party has recruited two more viable candidates for state Senate races in 2014, and is working on improving its line-up even more with just a month before the deadline to register to run.

In the 8th District (Kanawha, Putnam), the party has gotten a commitment from retired insurance agency owner Ed Gaunch to run for the seat now held by veteran Democrat Erik Wells.  Republicans are giddy over Gaunch because of his business experience and conservative values.

Wells, husband of Secretary of State and U.S. Senate candidate Natalie Tennant, is well-known in the Kanawha valley from his days as a TV news anchor and he’s won election twice.  It won’t be easy to upset him.

In the 10th District (Greenbrier, Fayette, Summers, Monroe) Republican businessman Duane Zobrist has decided to run. He runs an outdoor adventure company and is heavily involved in community organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America.

The 10th is a heavy Democratic district, which means incumbent Ronald Miller is still the favorite.  However, Republicans believe Zobrist gives the party a chance of picking up a Senate seat.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party is hopeful it can secure a credible candidate to challenge Democratic incumbent Senator Bob Beach in the 13th District (Monongalia, Marion).  One name that has surfaced is Sam Chico, Jr., but the Morgantown businessman has not yet made a decision.  Retired Col. Robert Lazzell Jr. is also considering running.

In the 9th District (Raleigh, Wyoming, McDowell), GOP officials say they are talking with at least two potential candidates.  The party’s goal there is to knock out two-term Democratic Senator Mike Green.

Democratic state Senate Majority Leader John Unger is up for re-election next year in the 16th District (Berkeley, Jefferson).    Unger is favored to win his 5th term, but the GOP wants to take advantage of a growing Republican registration.

So far, no viable GOP candidate has entered the race, but current Republican House of Delegates member Mike Folk is reportedly considering it.

The 17th Senatorial District (Kanawha) is open because of the retirement of Democrat Brooks McCabe.  Current House of Delegates member Democrat Doug Skaff is the early favorite to take that seat.

However, the GOP has not given up on that race either.  The name of Charleston businesswoman Kim Knopf is being mentioned as a candidate for the 17th or perhaps even the 2nd District Congressional race, which already has several Republicans on the ticket.

Knopf is a successful entrepreneur. She started a bedding and mattress retail business 30 years ago, which has grown into Innovative Mattress Solutions, with 150 stores.   She has enough personal wealth to mount a viable campaign for either race.

Democrats hold a 24-10 advantage in the state Senate, with 17 seats up in 2014.  Of those 17, Democrats have 12 seats, Republicans have three and two are open.   Currently, all three of the GOP seats appear secure, while probably half of the Democrats are in good shape, barring an unexpected challenge.




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  • Hop'sHip

    D.P. I might agree with you but I sadly admit I don't understand "SO FAR LEFT you are horizontal". I know you are outside kayaking down the New River or something, but if you could kindly pull out your extremely smart phone and explain that to me, it would be appreciated. I know it must be an exceptionally smart reference because I have found people who use "Obummer" to be among our most thoughtful and wise of citizens.

    • Jason412


  • Carmen

    This is more than just a Republican movement, but their National Conservative sub groups that have the money and brains that the few WV Republicans have never had before.

    They will spend millions to hang Obama around all of these Conservative Dems and these folks will get creamed.

    These groups don't understand WV Dems are not Democrats.

    The WVEA and AFL CIO are finally no longer in charge of the Legislature

  • Hop'sHip

    I think D.P. must have made a point. Sure the words may sound like a lot of drivel, but you have to be impressed with his use of punctuation. He may have little to say, but he says it very emphatically!!!!!!!!! Don't you agree???????

  • D.P.

    For the record, I was a Democrat ALL of my life until a few years ago. I will ALWAYS vote for the man (or woman) NOT the party!!! Although I now am a registered Republican (due 100% to Obama and his hacks) I voted for both Manchin and Tomblin. I will continue to vote for Dems in the future if I feel they are best suited for the job.

    Those of you I MOST disagree with, have sadly probably NEVER voted anything but straight Democrat!!!

  • D.P.

    stophating-Like JTC, you just don't get it!!! One party rule NEVER works! Look what happened when we had a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress the 1st two years of Obummer's Presidency: A TRILLION dollar stimulus and Obamacare. Has this country ever seen two bigger legislative disasters???

    I would love to explain why Democratic rule in WV has been DISASTROUS for WV during the past 30 years (let alone the past 80 years). But, with Leftist Wackjobs such as yourself and JTC, I would only be wasting my time!!!!!

    • stophating

      I'm awaiting explanation.... Are you going to say that republicans would have prevented the state from being plundered of it's resources? I hope not, I might die from laughter if you suggest that.

      I will say that the legislature and governor looted retirement funds rather than raise taxes about 30-35 years ago, but that was while we had a republican governor.....

  • stophating

    I love how so many people love to point out 80+ years of democratic rule, and the accuse the legislature of being leftist or liberals. I can't speak of the first fifty years, but can for the last thirty.... They are anything but liberals, check out the tax cuts that have taken place over past 8-10 years. Only one cut has benefitted the middle or lower class--eliminating the food tax. That will be the first tax to be put back in place (my prediction is July 1, 2014).

    Because of tax cuts, there has been less revenue available, and agencies have been forced to cut back on personnel--doing the same work with less.

    I challenge any person to prove that business tax cuts have created or preserved a single job in the state.

    If the past 12 years have been any indication, I can only imagine what even one year of republican rule would be like.......

    • The bookman

      What data are you using to make your claim that tax cuts are the problem? Coal severance and lottery revenues are to blame on one side. And increased Medicaid and health care costs, as projected years ago by Roman Prezioso, on the other side are to blame. The fiscal problems in State Government should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention for the last ten years as that is the reason so much surplus has been squirreled away in the rainy day fund.....See the storm clouds coming! No, I guess not! You're still looking for a teacher pay raise, as usual!

      • stophating

        Since Manchin took office there has been roughly 450 million in corporate/business tax cuts... I don't know where you are from but we have a projected deficit of 200 million... the cuts would have covered the projected deficit for two years without the need for further cuts... I will just say this, hope you like standing in line at all state agencies--this next round of cuts might make getting a driver's license renewed a two day ordeal...

        • The bookman

          Arguing with you is like beating yourself in the head with your own hammer. How far back must one go to make a veiled point that tax cuts are the problem...JFK proved reducing taxes stimulates economic growth! The taxes reduced by Manchin while governor were confiscatory in nature and an impediment to capital outlays by business. They were unfair and created an unequal playing field when compared with neighboring states. Without the removal of those taxes against corporate property, it is hard to tell what shape we would be in, but it would not be for the good. As for waiting in line at a state agency for my license, we'll see! Cuts like these of the last two budget years are similar to the impact of the sequester or government shutdown we have incurred over the last year. Much ado about nothing!

          • The bookman

            Ok...but you now have to agree that corporate tax incentives to business retain jobs as well as create new ones. Oregon entered into a 30 year tax incentive agreement to keep Nike from relocating its corporate headquarters. And here is a story on job creation from Indiana utilizing corporate tax cuts as an incentive to locate new business.


          • stophating

            I asked for a single example, and you couldn't provide.... It must be a figment of the conservative mind that it works....Happy New Year

          • The bookman


            Creating a tax friendly environment leads to investment in existing business and location of new business. Texas has a zero corporate income tax and look at the robust job creation there...but there is no way to prove anything to you on this front. You are anti business all the way...Confiscate the wealth and redistribute it to everyone so that everyone has an equal share, right? Stop hating and start thinking!

          • stophating

            Prove that the cuts save just one job, or created just one job.... It should be a balancing act---provide jobs that offset the cuts or the cuts go away.

  • Gus

    What happened to Suzette Raines in the 17th? She filed precandidacy papers to run for the senate-- has she backed out of the senate race to stay in the House?

  • clair thompson

    Please vote for our State and Country, not just for a certain party.

    • Hop'sHip

      OK. So I just write in West Virginia?

  • D.P.

    JTC-You just don't get it!!! We are losing population primarily because the Democratic party has ruled our state for 80+ years! Sadly, Leftist Wackjobs like yourself haven't a clue as to what's going on!

    Hopefully, it is people LIKE YOU who choose to leave the state. Otherwise, those such as yourself will continue to vote for the same ole Democratic flunkies who have kept our state in a perpetual hole!

    Jesse's girl-I 100% agree with your post! Unfortunately, both of us are wasting our time trying to make a point with an uneducated jerk (JTC) who has probably been on welfare all of his life. People like JTC are straight Dem voters and it's fruitless to try to make a point with these types!!! They have not the sense to vote for the Man, not the Party. I'm sure it's frightening for someone like JTC to envision a time when his benefits might "Be taken away from him." So very sad!!!!!

    • Jason412

      "Sadly, Leftist Wackjobs like yourself haven't a clue as to what's going on!"
      "They have not the sense to vote for the Man, not the Party"

      Yeah obviously you vote for the man. Thats why your insults are filled with party references.

      The guy doesnt agree with you so he MUST be on welfare. From now on anyone who doesnt agree with me is an incest, toothless, meth smoking, backwoods hillbilly. Sounds ignorant, doesnt it?

      • The bookman

        Jason I have to agree! We rarely agree on substance of arguments, but insulting name calling never advances one's argument... I do enjoy the back and forth of a good debate of the facts, but sadly, in this open forum, when the debate lacks substance the vitriol becomes less intelligent and deteriorates into the typical school yard "I know you are, but what am I?" nonsense. It sounds ignorant because it is!

  • JTC

    With what few people that will be left in the state it will turn red eventually (senior citizens and the duck dynasty lovers aka Fox News viewers) yes we are always five years behind all national trends thus the slow change to what was the Bush years, then back to reality in the 2020s.

    • Jesse's girl

      Good grief, what is this? Unintelligible comes to mind. Did this "reply" come straight from a left-wing "seminar" website?

      Why are "senior citizens" automatically dubbed incapable of thinking by you? Duck Dynasty is the name of a program and thus should be capitalized. Phil Robertson stated the obvious very clearly and Biblically. When I still had television service, I watched FoxNews. It was refreshing to hear a bit of factual news instead of the synchronized garbage spewed by the networks and cable stations. By-the-way, have you ever watched FoxNews? I thought not.

      It is nigh unto impossible to actually have a rational discussion with folks such as yourself due to your inability to allow another opinion and the fact that you only listen to erroneous information fed to you..

      • Jason412

        Where did he say Senior Citizens were incapable of thinking? I believe he was insinuating Senior Citizens tend to vote Republican because its what they prefer, while Duck Dynasty viewers vote Rep cuz its what they were told.

        I notice how people like you are always the first to throw childish insults about other peoples political views. Why is that? Anytime I agree with Democrat views on here I am called a leftist, socialist, or whatever. God forbid I think for myself.

        You say this
        "It is nigh unto impossible to actually have a rational discussion with folks such as yourself due to your inability to allow another opinion"
        But at first you say
        "Did this "reply" come straight from a left-wing "seminar" website"

        Yeah, you're clearly open to outside opinions.

        You dont bring up any good points at all, your post is basically just an insult, then you complain you cant have a rational discussion with people like him.

        Who is the irrational one? The person that makes a statement based on their views or the person that verbally attacks the 1st person based on his views.

        • hillbilly

          You know, just maybe Senior Citizens have been around long enough to know what is going on. They grew up working for a living, not on entitlements. They have time to check out candidates and make the wisest choice at the ballot. They are not out for what they can get, unlike some of the younger generations. Perhaps just maybe their votes have more thought put into them.

  • BOE

    Wells may be well known, but he has to answer to the BOE employees on his position with charter schools. He can't win without the teachers.
    Also, He is his wife's biggest liability........

  • Fairport

    With the hatred of the majority of people of WV, the money the Republican party poured into this state and the EPA, WV should have been a Repub state in the past two elections, If they don't get it this time then you can forget it, Mr Repubs. Will never happen at state level...Too many coal miners and families have been screwed to support a Repub now, too much industry is entering the state now, the courts are becoming more neutral and gas will elect the next politicians like coal use me the money..

  • Wirerowe

    Competition is good. I would question whether republicans can win any of the seats you mentioned Hoppy.

    • The bookman

      I agree wire! As is the case at the national level, the house is a much easier nut to crack than the senate...and state politics are different than national politics...I don't see Obama's negatives transferring to gains by Republicans in State Senate races...on the National Stage I see the linkage. At the State level not so much!

      • Wirerowe

        I agree completely with your analysis. Bookman.

  • Question

    Can anyone tell me why Tennant didn't run for Capito's House seat? I don't think she stands a chance winning the U. S. Senate seat?

    • stophating

      Does she reside in "Capito's District?"

      • The bookman

        Although she is from Marion County, she lives in Kanawha County and is married to Erik Wells, State Senate 8th District...he also ran against and lost to Capito for the same house seat, so I would guess the answer is yes she lives in the district.

    • The bookman

      IMHO they could not find a Named candidate to run against Capito for the Senate seat...they recruited everybody they could and settled on Tennant because she said yes..the truth is that seat means more in the balance of power between the two parties than Capito's house seat...the house seat can go either way and it really will change nothing, as the House is projected to gain additional Republican numbers...The Senate could see a shift to Republican with a few key gains, Rockefeller's seat being one of them. The Democrats, Harry Reid in particular, are trying to save their majority in the Senate, as well they should, as it is in jeopardy.

  • CaptainQ

    The more things change, the more they stay the same in West Virginia, Hoppy.

    The WV Senate, as well as the WV House, will remain solidly in Democrat hands for decades to come. Even the shadow of Obama looming down on the Mountain State won't cause ripples in STATE politics that much. It could turn the tide in the 2nd & 3rd U.S. House Districts and Jay Rockefeller's old U.S. Senate seat next November, but otherwise, politics will go on as they always have in this state for nearly a century. Democrats will retain virtual control of Charleston while the Republicans can only dream of 'what might have been,' again.

    • Coalwiz

      Cap.....we should probably agree to disagree. I believe that WV is very slow to change, but change is coming. The trend for the last decade or so is that we are headed to being a true two party state and that it is obvious it is only going to take another couple of election cycles for us to get there. The Obama factor can't be overlooked and he will drag the party down for both the mid-terms and the '16 election. Couple that with the fact that the GOP is now consistently lining up good candidates for statehouse races (too many times in the past the "correct" candidate turned down the opportunity because it could have been a public or business suicide for them to run.)

      It really isn't a matter of "if", but "when."

      • Wowbagger

        The Captain is a good guy, but he doesn't understand that for the first time since 1932 the winds of change are blowing in West Virginia. Nothing lasts forever!

        I am becoming more of a Libertarian as time passes myself, but somewhere my old buddy Mac, Republican to the end is smiling!