CHARLESTON, W.Va. — You know it’s a big Election Day in West Virginia when the week starts with a tweet from the president of the United States.
President Donald Trump’s 6:53 a.m. Monday tweet urging primary voters to steer clear of ex-coal executive Don Blankenship and instead vote for Congressman Evan Jenkins or Attorney General Patrick Morrisey highlighted what a contentious, competitive and interesting race is unfolding for U.S. Senate.
National media rolled in to West Virginia ahead of Election Day today to spotlight what’s happening here as the three Republican front-runners vie to take on the presumed Democratic candidate, incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin.
Blankenship, who served a year in prison after being convicted on a mine safety conspiracy charge, alluded to polls that showed him ahead in the race. Morrisey publicly acknowledged that polls seemed to be tightening as Election Day drew near.
That race and many others around the state appear primed for a dramatic conclusion.
What you need to know:
Election Day is Tuesday all across West Virginia.
Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
For the first time, West Virginia is requiring voters show some form of identification, although what is acceptable is fairly broad.
Want to see a sample ballot for where you live? Here’s a handy tool.
West Virginia MetroNews will feature live coverage of the statewide election starting at 7:06 p.m. Tuesday.
More than 71,000 votes are already in for Tuesday’s West Virginia Primary Election.
On Monday, Secretary of State Mac Warner provided updated totals showing 71,313 ballots were cast during the early voting period that ended Saturday.
That’s 50 percent more than the last off-year primary election in West Virginia. There were 45,143 early voters in the 2014 primary election.
On the Democratic side, incumbent Joe Manchin racked up endorsements from groups like the United Mine Workers while taking on challenger Paula Jean Swearengin, a progressive and a coal miner’s daughter.
Morrisey, Jenkins and Blankenship — the presumed front-runners in the Republican race — were all out campaigning on Monday. Each also spoke with West Virginia and national media.
Three more candidates on the GOP ballot were also making their final pitches to voters.
Truck driver and veteran Jack Newbrough, announced on “Talkline” Monday that he supports Blankenship. Newbrough had earlier said he would not support Morrisey.
“I think he would follow in the exact same footsteps as our president,” Newbrough said.
He added, “I have been on the campaign trail with Mr. Blankenship and I have listened to his stories, and I honestly believe he is Trumpier than Trump.”
Another candidate for Senate, laid off miner Bo Copley, said on “Talkline” that three of the six candidates had not gotten a fair shake — including from the president.
“Donald Trump tweeting about the candidates, I don’t know that he knows the rest of us are even in this because media doesn’t portray us as being in it,” Copley said.
Copley singled out Morrisey for criticism among the six candidates.
“You have a guy who moved to this state, specifically to run for office, who in less than 12 years could be sent to Washington, D.C., and be the representative for my family,” Copley said.
“And I’ll be quite honest with you, he’s been probably the rudest person in this race that I’ve met in Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. He doesn’t care if there’s a conversation going on; he’s not seen a conversation going on yet that he wouldn’t break up to be able to get some attention, to be able to talk too.”
And candidate Tom Willis, a businessman and Green Beret, said he expects to win today.
“There’s a clear path to victory,” Willis said on “Talkline.”
“Twenty-six percent can win this race. That comes out to 23,400 votes across the entire state. I’ll get more than that just from the veteran community. I’ll pick up the faith vote, and there’s a huge contingent that are just sick of the other three guys and the negative campaigning.”
Jenkins’ decision to run for U.S. Senate opened up a competitive race for the seat representing the 3rd Congressional District.
Republicans in the race include Delegate Carol Miller of Huntington, former state Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas of Huntington, Delegate Rupie Phillips of Man, Delegate Marty Gearheart of Bluefield and Dr. Ayne Amjad of Beckley.
Democrats include state Senator Richard Ojeda of Logan, Delegate Shirley Love of Oak Hill and Paul Davis, general manager and chief of the Tri-State Transit Authority, headquartered in Huntington.
Over the past few days, Miller and Lucas have been exchanging fire.
Her campaign sent out mailers labeling him as a Harvard-educated elitist.
He said she shouldn’t mock educational attainment. Lucas also challenged Miller to a one-on-one debate, which never happened.
In the northern counties of West Virginia, Democrats Ralph Baxter, a businessman, and Kendra Fershee, a West Virginia University law professor, were vying to take on incumbent Republican Congressman David McKinley.
And Democrats Talley Sargent, who served as the state director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and Aaron Scheinberg, an Army veteran and former nonprofit director, were competing to take on incumbent Republican Congressman Alex Mooney in the district that stretches across the center of the state.
It’s an active legislative election season too.
The most contentious race is a Republican primary showdown with Delegate Bill Hamilton challenging Senator Robert Karnes. Both live in Upshur County.
Karnes carries a reputation for controversy and was the subject of teacher resentment, and Hamilton has the backing of labor unions, which might not be a plus in a Republican primary.
Another incumbent with a primary challenge is Senator Mark Drennan, who was appointed last year to take over the seat vacated by Mike Hall, a longtime senator.
Drennan is being challenged by businessman Eric Tarr, who is no stranger to the Legislature. Tarr has served as a volunteer assistant to Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns. Both Drennan and Tarr are from Putnam County.
Senator Lynn Arvon, a former delegate from Beckley who was appointed to the Senate just a couple weeks into the past legislative session, faces a primary challenge from Rollan Roberts of Beaver.
And Senator Mark Maynard, a Wayne County resident who narrowly beat longtime incumbent Truman Chafin in 2014, has a primary challenge from Wesley Blankenship of Mingo County.
House of Delegates
The House of Delegates is active in part because so many members aren’t coming back.
Nineteen delegates declined to run for the seats they’d held. That’s about one-fifth of the House of Delegates.
And several delegates who are running for re-election are very recent incumbents, having been appointed to their seats just prior to, during or even right after the past legislative session.
The most prominent departure is Speaker Tim Armstead, who is considering a 2020 run for state Supreme Court.
All the comings and goings have resulted in some newly-competitive races.
Particularly active is the Huntington district where the departing Carol Miller and Chuck Romine have run for House in the past. The remaining incumbent in that district is Democrat Sean Hornbuckle.