Five state Senate races to watch in 2014

The 2014 election is still a ways off, and candidates have until Jan. 25, 2014 to register to run, but some races in the West Virginia state Senate are already taking shape.  Here are a few of them.

–1st District (Marshall, Ohio, Brooke, Hancock).  The seat is held by Democrat Rocky Fitzsimmons, a Democrat from Wheeling, who was appointed by Gov. Tomblin last year to fill a vacancy.  He’ll be running next year to try to win the seat outright.

That race got significantly more interesting yesterday when Ryan Ferns, a Democratic House of Delegates member from Wheeling, announced that he’s switching to the Republican Party and running for Senate.

Ferns has to deal with political fallout from a party switch, but Republicans have fared well in the 1st.  The seat used to be held by Andy McKenzie, a Republican who is now the mayor of Wheeling. Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey carried the district in 2012.

–2nd District (Marshall, Wetzel, Monongalia, Marion, Tyler, Doddridge, Ritchie, Gilmer, Calhoun).  Larry Edgell, a Democrat from New Martinsville, has held the seat since 1998 and will be running for re-election in 2014.

Edgell may have his toughest race in years.  Republican Kent Leonhardt from Monongalia County is making his second stab at politics. The retired Marine, who is now a farmer, ran a close race against Walt Helmick (52%-48%) for state Agriculture Commissioner in 2012.

–5th District (Cabell, Wayne).  This seat is open because current Senator Even Jenkins switched from the Democratic to Republican Party and entered the 3rd District Congressional race against Nick Rahall.

So far there are two candidates in the race; Michael Woelfel, a Democratic attorney from Huntington, and Vicki Dunn-Marshall, a Republican businesswoman from Barboursville.

Cabell is a Democratic County, but Republicans have had success there. Republican women hold two House of Delegates seats and two County Commission seats.

–12th District (Harrison, Lewis, Braxton, Clay, Gilmer).  Governor Tomblin appointed Democratic House of Delegates member Sam Cann earlier this year to fill a vacancy.  Often existing office holders will get a pass in the Primary Election, but not this time.  Cann faces a stiff challenge from Bridgeport attorney Michael Romano.

Republicans are not conceding the seat. Harrison County School Board member Mike Queen is considering entering the race. Queen switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party a few weeks ago in preparation for the race. Queen would have to resign the school board seat the moment he files to run for another office.

–15th District (Mineral, Hampshire, Morgan, Berkeley).  This is another seat filled by Gov. Tomblin when a vacancy occurred.  The position went to Donald Cookman, the longtime Democratic circuit judge from Romney.

Cookman will try to win the seat outright in 2014, but he will face stiff opposition.  Former House of Delegates Minority Leader Charlie Trump has decided to get back into politics and has signed up to run in this heavily Republican district.

Democrats hold a 24-10 advantage in the Senate, with half of the seats up next year.  Republicans are mounting a major recruiting effort to try to narrow the disparity.  The five races mentioned above show that the leg work is paying off.


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