CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The race in the 3rd Congressional District for the Nov. 4 general election started long before Tuesday’s primary election, which brought the official nominations of longtime Congressman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Evan Jenkins (R-Cabell, 5).
The two candidates and their supporters, though, have been looking forward to the general election for months now, even though Rahall faced a challenge from Richard Ojeda of Logan, a retiree from the U.S. Army, in the Democratic primary.
Rahall, who turns 65 on May 20, has represented the 3rd District since first being elected in 1976. “I am honored to receive this nomination, the lines in this campaign are now clearly drawn. It’s West Virginia working families against out-of-state billionaires and their puppet, Evan Jenkins,” Rahall said on Tuesday night after he was renominated.
“I’m going to represent West Virginia values and continue to put my record of 38 years of service to the people, representing West Virginia values for the people to once again make up their minds,” he said.
Currently the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Transportation Committee, he supported President Barack Obama in 2008 and voted for the Affordable Care Act.
Jenkins is expected to continue to make both facts issues in the Congressional campaign in the months leading up to the general election. “Nick Rahall has voted for cap and trade. He’s voted for a carbon tax on coal. He voted to give the EPA almost $3 billion in increased funding in 2009 and the chickens are coming home to roost with their attacks on permits and rules and regs,” he said.
Jenkins, 53, is an attorney from Huntington. “We’ve been working hard and so tonight’s just another step in the process,” Jenkins told MetroNews of his nomination on Tuesday night.
He was elected to multiple terms in the state House of Delegates, as a Democrat, before being elected to the state Senate, also as a Democrat, in 2002. Last July, Jenkins switched political parties and launched his Congressional campaign against Rahall — saying he could no longer support President Obama’s Democratic party.
“My priorities have not changed, my party has changed,” Jenkins said at that time. “I think where I can be most helpful, most useful, is to be a member of the Republican Party and make sure we have a Republican vote, going to Washington, standing up for southern West Virginia.”
Roll Call, a Capitol Hill magazine, has included Rahall’s seat on its list of the “most vulnerable” ahead of the general election.
Proof of that vulnerability is found in the money third party groups have already started spending on ads supporting or opposing both Rahall and Jenkins in the 3rd District. That spending is expected to eclipse what the candidates themselves will spend. Reports showed Rahall had raised $1.3 million in contributions, while Jenkins had raised $612,000, thus far, and had $439,000 remaining.
Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-Missouri), a former Republican National Committee co-chair, will attend a fundraising event for Jenkins on Thursday in Charleston at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
The 3rd Congressional District includes 18 counties in southern West Virginia — Boone, Cabell, Fayette, Greenbrier, Lincoln, Logan, Mason, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Raleigh, Summers, Wayne, Webster and Wyoming.