CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Republican Kent Leonhardt has won the state’s Agriculture Commissioner race in his second try against Democrat Walt Helmick.
This was a rematch.
Helmick, a Democrat and former state senator, was first elected Agriculture Commissioner in 2012 by defeating Leonhardt, a Republican and current state senator, by a margin of 3 percent.
This year, both Helmick and Leonhardt were unopposed in their party’s primaries.
A Libertarian candidate, Buddy Guthrie, also was vying for the position.
This position works to improve the state’s agricultural industry and ensure the safety of all agricultural products sold within the state.
Helmick and Leonhardt butted heads this year over a Helmick-backed potato program that Leonhardt contended couldn’t be competitive with state’s that are already successful potato producers.
The last Republican to hold the agriculture commissioner position was Cleve Benedict in 1988.
Democrat Gus Douglass, Helmick’s predecessor, held the position for 11 terms: 1964 to 1988 and 1992 to 2012. He was the nation’s longest-serving agriculture commissioner.
Agriculture commissioner has some fairly specific requirements, spelled out in the state constitution: The commissioner shall be a practical farmer, learned in the science of agriculture, and shall have made agriculture his chief business for a period of ten years immediately preceding his election.
The position pays $95,000 a year.