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Dems and GOP Switch Places on Filling the Ballot

When long-time Democratic voters in West Virginia go to the polls this Primary Election cycle, they might wonder, “Where have all the legislative candidates gone?”

West Virginia’s steady progression from deep blue to deep red and the ongoing decline of Democratic voters have resulted in a significant drop in the number of Democratic candidates running for the legislature.

Forty years ago, when Democrats outnumbered Republicans two to one, it was often said that the “election” was in the Primary.  Liberal, moderate and conservative Democrats, or Democrats “in name only,” fought it out in the Primary while the Republican Party struggled to fill the ballot.

Consider these comparisons:

–In the 1982 Primary Election, 43 Democrats ran for nominations in 17 state senate districts. Every district was contested except one, and six candidates battled for the nomination in the 16th district.

–This year, just 13 Democrats are seeking their party’s nomination in the 17 districts. There are no Democrats on the Primary ballot in six of the districts and only two districts—the 1st and the 13th—have a race between Democrats for the nomination.

–Forty years ago, Democrats flooded the House of Delegate races. A whopping 267 Democrats ran in 40 House districts for 100 nominations.  In the 43rd delegate district in Kanawha County, 47 candidates battled for 12 nominations.

–This year, just 92 Democrats are running for the 100 nominations. Twenty-six of the 100 delegate districts have no Democrats at all running for the House and only 18 districts have contested races.

Meanwhile, the Republican candidate pool has increased dramatically.

–Republicans had just 17 candidates in the 17 Senate district races in the 1982 Primary Election. Three of the races had no candidates and only three were contested.

–This year, 35 Republicans are running for the state senate, and 11 of the nominations are contested. None of the 17 state senate ballot positions has been left unfilled.

–On the House side in the 1982 Primary, 101 Republicans were on the ballot in the 40 delegate districts. The GOP left vacant ballot positions in 11 of the delegate districts.

–This year, 160 Republicans are running in the 100 Delegate districts for 100 nominations. The GOP has left just one district race vacant (25th in Cabell County). Forty-three of the 100 nominations available are contested.

West Virginia’s Democrat and Republican parties have switched places over the last 40 years.  Republicans now offer more choices, while it is now the Democrats that fight to fill the ballot.

*(Due to redistricting and the decision to move to single-member districts, West Virginia now has 100 delegate districts.)



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