There was a lot of speculation about a possible “blue wave” in last week’s midterm election. West Virginia, which has trended increasingly red in the last two decades, was never going to be part of that wave.
However, a closer look at the election results shows West Virginia does have democratic strongholds, often (but not always) in urban areas, that turned out for their party. Let’s call them “blue geysers.”
Republican strategist Greg Thomas has broken down the election results and identified several of those blue geysers.
One is in the state Senate’s 1st district in the northern panhandle where Democratic challenger Bill Ihlenfeld knocked off Republican incumbent Senator Ryan Ferns. Ferns increased his vote total by 2,500 voters from 2014, but Ihlenfeld got 5,500 more votes than Ferns’ challenger in 2014. U.S. Senator Joe Manchin was also strong in Ohio County, the largest county in the district, beating Republican Patrick Morrisey 55 percent to 42 percent.
Another blue geyser is in Kanawha, or more precisely Charleston. Republican incumbent Senator Ed Gaunch increased his vote total slightly from 2014, but his Democratic challenger, Richard Lindsey, received nearly 5,000 more votes than the Democrat in 2014. Manchin beat Morrisey by a wide margin in Kanawha County—62 percent to 35 percent.
Also, Democrat Amy Shuler Goodwin won the Charleston mayoral race and Democrats won all six at-large seats on the Charleston City Council.
Cabell County has a blue geyser. Manchin beat Morrisey statewide by just over three points, but he won Cabell County by nearly 20 points. Incumbent Democratic state Senator Mike Woelfel won re-election easily and increased his vote total by 7,600 votes from 2014.
Monongalia County was solidly blue. In the House of Delegates race, voters kicked out two well-know Republican incumbents and filled all five positions with Democrats. Blue voters also helped Democratic incumbent Senator Bob Beach keep his seat and gave Manchin a 23-point win over Morrisey.
Jefferson County has a blue geyser. Manchin beat Morrisey in his home county by six percent and voters defeated two incumbent Republican House of Delegates members and replaced them with Democrats. Only Republican incumbent Paul Espinosa was able to hold on to his seat.* Democratic incumbent Senator John Unger carried Jefferson County by 1,750 votes over Republican challenger Mike Folk. That gave Unger a close victory since he lost Berkeley County by 260 votes.
These results demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of the two parties. Republicans are stronger in more rural areas, although there are fewer voters there, while Democrats are stronger in more urban areas, though there are not very many of those in West Virginia.
As such, West Virginia now looks much like the rest of the nation in terms of voter concentrations.
*(The Rockwool controversy was also a major factor in the Jefferson County House of Delegates races.)