CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The 2014 Primary and General Elections promise to be busy campaigns in West Virginia. All three Congressional districts feature known candidates who may make election nights in both May and November interesting.
The two party chairs in West Virginia enter the election year with optimism for their parties. Democrats have long held the edge in West Virginia although that support has eroded in recent years as the national party seemed to distance itself away in support of many of the boilerplate issues important to West Virginians. Democrat Party Chairman Larry Puccio downplays the impact of that shift in the West Virginia races.
“Candidates win today, parties don’t win,” Puccio said. “A good candidate who works hard and builds trust with people is who wins these races. We’re blessed we’re going to have three very good candidates in the general election.”
Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas would agree a good candidate is important, but notes the divide which developed in the last five years between West Virginia and national Democrat Party leaders has changed the landscape in West Virginia.
“I think it’s probable that all three Congressional seats will be filled by Republicans,” Lucas said. “It’s a good time to be on our side.”
Lucas noted the number of Republicans who’ve signed on to run for the nomination in the Second Congressional District as a sign of strength.
“At one point in time it was like pulling teeth to get Republicans to run for office in West Virginia,” said Lucas. “Now with an open Congressional seat we see a lot of folks who see this as an opportunity to serve the state in Washington D.C.”
The Democrats have long wanted to win back the Second District seat which Shelly Moore Capito has held for more than a decade. They’ll put up two known names in former state party chairman Nick Casey and Kanawha County Delegate Meesha Poore in the race.
“Meesha and Nick both are very well known and respected. I think they’ll do well,” said Puccio.
Republican Congressman David McKinley will seek a second term as the First District representative from West Virginia. He’ll face a stiff challenge from longtime State Auditor Glen Gainer who’ll seek the Democrat Party nomination.
The highest prize Republicans are after is the Third District Congressional seat occupied by Democrat Congressman Nick Rahall for more than 30-years. Lucas thinks Rahall’s longevity is as much a weakness as it is a strength.
“Yes Nick Rahall is running on 36 years of experience, but so are we,” Lucas said. “We want to point out all of the disservice he does to West Virginians in Washington D.C.”
Rahall also faces primary opposition from Democrat Richard Ojeda of Logan County.
Republicans were successful in coaxing Cabell County Democrat state senator Evan Jenkins to switch parties and seek the Congressional seat. Puccio believes that will be Jenkins’ sore spot.
“I think the people in Huntington are very upset that Evan Jenkins ran under one set of circumstances and then for personal gain changed in the middle of the stream,” said Puccio. “They feel betrayed and at this point a lot of folks are stepping up and asking him to resign.”