WASHINGTON, D.C. — A national political writer is predicting an increasingly nasty campaign in West Virginia’s Third Congressional District, leading up to November, as Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV, 3) tries to hang on to the U.S. House seat he’s held since 1976.
“It’s going to be quite ugly,” said Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of The Rothenberg Political Report — a national non-partisan political publication that currently lists the state’s Third District as one of seven “toss up” Congressional districts across the country.
“The Congressman is facing a reelection race like he’s never faced before,” said Gonzales who characterized the campaign between the likely nominees, Rahall and state Senator Evan Jenkins (R-5, Cabell), as a “race to bottom,” with the opposing candidates – and the groups that support them – spending a lot of money to tell voters why the other guy is a bad choice.
Jenkins switched political parties last year to run for the Republican nomination for Congress in West Virginia’s Third District and challenge Rahall. Even though the candidates will not be officially nominated until the May 13 primary election, attack ads have been airing for months in the Third District.
On CNN’s “Inside Politics” on Sunday, John King reported Democratic leaders talked Rahall out of a retiring “a couple of weeks ago” by promising him more money to support his reelection campaign.
“He’s one of the guys under attack by outside interest groups, including the Koch brothers,” said King.
In response to King’s report, Diane Luensmann, Rahall’s communications director, said Rahall “has been committed to running for reelection from the moment he announced his candidacy. Nothing has changed in the interim.”
Gonzalez said he was not surprised with the King report since, he thinks, Rahall will need the help.
“There is a chunk of voters (in the Third District) who are willing to vote Republican in federal races. They just haven’t been voting Republican in the Congressional race. So those voters are there, they (the Republicans) just have to identify them and get them to finally flip that switch,” Gonzales said on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
He said the current Democratic leadership in Washington, D.C. will benefit Republicans in Rahall’s home district.
“What’s the weight that Rahall has to overcome in order to win?” asked Gonzalez. “We have to wait and see how both candidates react when the heat is turned up.”