One of the more fascinating races this election cycle is for the Republican nomination for Congress in West Virginia’s 2nd District. When Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito decided to run for the U.S. Senate, she did not leave behind an heir apparent.
As a result, there is a crowded field of seven candidates, representing the geographic extremes of the sprawling district, as well as varying levels of political skill, experience and financing.
Robert Fluharty, Steve Harrison, Charlotte Lane, Alex Mooney, Jim Moss, Ken Reed and Ron Walters, Jr., give Republican and Independent voters a choice in the Primary Election one week from today.
I spoke with representatives of three of the campaigns to get a sense of the pathway to victory. Naturally, they vary somewhat, but the basics are similar.
For example, all three expect a very light turnout, typical of an off-year Primary Election. One camp predicted as few as 26,000 Republicans and Independents would cast ballots in the 17 counties, while another predicted 30,000. The third thought about 34,000 voters would show up.
Let’s split the difference and pick the 30,000 figure. Divided evenly among the seven, that means a candidate could win with just 4,300 votes. That’s only 14 percent of the vote.
But of course it won’t turn out to be a seven-way race. There will probably be two or three near the top and then the rest of the field, with the winning candidate getting around 30 percent, or 9,000 to 10,000 votes.
So, where do the votes come from? Candidates like to say they’re running in the entire district, but the biggest chunks of Republican and Independent voters are in Kanawha (65,000) and Berkeley (44,000) counties. Although a spokesperson for one campaign suggested to me the importance of Upshur County; just 10,000 Republican and Independent voters, but a reputation for a high turnout.
The geographic bases of the candidates make the race even more intriguing. Mooney and Reed are from the eastern panhandle, while the other five are from the Kanawha Valley. Mooney and Reed have to worry that they split the panhandle vote, and then come up short in the valley, while the Kanawha County candidates have the same concerns; they could divide up the votes five ways, giving an advantage to Mooney or Reed.
This is a unique position for West Virginia Republicans. The party has often struggled to fill the ballot with qualified candidates. This year, however, the race for the nomination in WV-2 has a field of legitimate GOP candidates fighting for playing time.