CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A primary election is a difficult time for the chairman of a state political party.
West Virginia Democrat Party Chairman Larry Puccio and Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas are more inclined to defend their party’s platform in the public arena. However, the debates going on leading up to tomorrow’s races are among like-minded individuals and the chairmen have to play it cool.
“Getting the infrastructure ready for the general election,” is how Puccio described the last several months. “Helping our candidates get the information they need to they can tough the voters and deliver their message.”
“As a party, we’re excited for the primary to be finished so we can go ahead and focus on making sure we beat Democrats in November,” said Lucas.
You’d be hard pressed to get either of these individuals to not be enthusiastic about the November general election. Puccio said despite the unpopularity of Democrat President Barrack Obama, West Virginia Democrats continue to maintain the majority of registered voters. He said he expects Republicans to use the president’s negative image here, but doubts it will work as November approaches.
“They’re polls show them that’s something that doesn’t help a Democrat candidate,” Puccio said. “On the other hand they spent millions of dollars to try and taint our U.S. Senator Joe Manchin and Governor Tomblin with the president and it didn’t work, we won both of those seats.”
Lucas saw the outlook for November through a far different prism. He’s predicting a win for Republicans in the Third Congressional District and the unseating of longtime entrenched Congressman Nick Rahall. He also believed the seven candidates vying for the nomination in the Second Congressional District can only help the GOP hold onto that seat held by Shelley Moore Capito for more than a decade.
“It used to be you didn’t have seven Republican candidates in all races,” Lucas said. “It used to be that a Democrat primary was a de facto general election, that’s not the case anymore. It’s a new day in West Virginia.”
Lucas said the Republicans are starting to make inroads in the long held strongholds of the West Virginia Democrat Party. They’ll open a field office after the primary in Logan and said they have viable candidates on the ballot in Mingo and McDowell counties. He’s confident the Republicans will take the majority in the House of Delegates in November.
Puccio didn’t buy it.
“Last election, just two short years ago, in the entire state of West Virginia Democrats won 67 percent and the Republicans won just 33 percent,” he said. “Folks are still voting for the Democrat candidates that actually are with them, working with them, and communicating with them. It’s really up to the candidate—- if they work hard and earn the trust of the voter, they’ll be successful.”