The new U.S. Census figures have set the stage for congressional musical chairs in West Virginia.
The decline in population here and the growth in other states translates into the loss of one of the state’s three congressional seats.
The three seats are currently occupied by Republicans: David McKinley in the first, Alex Mooney in the second and Carol Miller in the third.
McKinley, from Ohio County, is the senior member of the delegation in age and years of service. He is 74 and is serving his sixth two-year term. Mooney, who turns 50 in June, lives in Jefferson County. He was elected to a fourth term last November. Miller, 70, is in her second term. She lives in Cabell County.
As MetroNews’ Alex Thomas reported, “Offices for McKinley, Mooney and Miller referred to a joint statement by the three saying they will announce their political futures once the West Virginia Legislature approves a new congressional map.” That will not happen until later this year after the state receives more detailed data from the Census Bureau.
There is no indication how the Republican-controlled state legislature will draw the map. The obvious option would be dividing the state into a northern district and a southern district.
“Election analysis outlet Inside Elections published a hypothetical congressional map last week with West Virginia split into northern and southern districts. Cities in the 1st Congressional District would include Wheeling, Martinsburg, Charles Town, Morgantown and Clarksburg, while Charleston, Huntington, Bluefield and Beckley would be in the 2nd District,” Thomas reported.
That would put McKinley and Mooney in the same district. If both decided to run, that would set up a major Republican primary race.
Dividing the state between east and west districts seems less likely. Would it make sense to have Jefferson and McDowell counties in the same district or Hancock and Logan counties in the same district?
Keeping the southern counties united in their own district favors Miller even though she has the least seniority of the three.
There is also the possibility that one or more of the three will decide not to run for re-election to Congress in 2022 due to retirement or other political ambitions. Politicians are already lining up for 2024.
Justice will have finished his second term, so Governor will be open and Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin’s term is up. It is unclear whether Manchin will run for re-election. If he does, Republicans believe he is vulnerable.
Political races are about winning over voters with ideas and charisma, raising money for staff and advertisements, and navigating the perils of a long campaign. However, with the new Census data, the next congressional campaign in West Virginia will also be about the mundane, but critically important, drawing of a line across the state.