Political newcomers surge past incumbents in House District primary race

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Two challengers in the Democratic Primary in the 51st House of Delegates District earned big statement wins Tuesday night.

Political newcomer Danielle Walker finished third with 5,086 votes, just barely edging out incumbent Delegate John Williams by 105 votes, or about 0.23%. She said the current political climate prompted her to get involved in local politics.

“When your children look at you and say, ‘Mommy, what are we going to do?’ I definitely knew that I needed to step up, and I needed to do that in the right direction,” she said.

And once she got involved, Walker found herself receiving enormous support — particularly from Monongalia County’s teachers and school personnel.

“So I put myself out there in the community, and I went to a whole bunch of meetings and I went to rallies and I spoke from the heart and I spoke from experience.”

Walker said she was approached as a potential candidate to run in Monongalia County, which currently features a split ticket of three Democrats and two Republicans.

“That was very humbling, because I’m an every day person that wants a voice for everyone who feels like their voice doesn’t count,” she said.

Despite her strong primary showing, Walker said she doesn’t want to take anything for granted in her quest to ‘rebuild’ and ‘invest’ in West Virginia, particularly its public employees.

“I understood what West Virginia was,” she said. “We had a great foundation here, but it was time for us to rebuild.”

Evan Hansen, who finished within 37 votes of winning a spot in the House of Delegates in 2016, had a strong second place showing with 5,623 votes.

“I didn’t make anything up, I didn’t do anything special,” he said. “I just did what candidates do who want to meet people, try to expand my circles and meet more people and learn about the issues.”

Hansen said that was the main difference between 2018 and 2016 — expanding what he views as a winning electorate.

“Even though I knocked on a lot of doors the first time, I really ramped that up this time to meet people face-to-face and learn about what’s important to them,” he said.

That matters, Hansen said, because he still wonders if more could have been done to earn an extra 38 votes 18 months ago.

Candidates Evan Hansen and Danielle Walker on the campaign trail.

“Of course it made me think about the little things I could have done differently last time,” he said. “But I think the main thing was just getting out there and meeting more people.”

Hansen, an environmental scientist and small business owner, finished second only to long-time Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, who led the primary race with 6,098 votes, a 475-vote margin over Hansen.

Incumbent Delegate John Williams finished in fourth with 4,981 votes. Delegate Rodney Pyles finished fifth with 3,941 votes. Both qualified for the November ballot.

Newcomer Cory B. Kennedy finished last, earning 2,575 votes.

On the Republican side, only four candidates — including incumbents Joe Statler and Cindy Frich — entered the race, leaving little to the imagination as soon as the filing deadline passed in January.

Statler edged out Frich by 156 votes, earning 3,156 votes to Frich’s 3,000 votes. Debbie Warner finished third with 2,796 votes.

Roger Shuttlesworth, an ideological conservative who finished in eighth in the 2016 general election and finished 6th in the 2014 Republican primary, finished fourth this year with 2,662 votes.

All four will appear on November’s general ballot.

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