Senate President Craig Blair is feeling good about the shape of the majority caucus coming out of the Primary Election.
The West Virginia Republican Senate Committee backs candidates, and generally those were Primary Election winners.
Blair touted a “seal of approval” that resulted from questionnaire responses by candidates. Those most in line with Senate Republican priorities were eligible for the seal. In some cases, that meant endorsing a couple of candidates in some districts, particularly those with no incumbent in the race.
“We’re making sure the voters know who they’re getting that, or attempting to do that,” said Blair, R-Berkeley.
There were 10 of the 11 Senate Republican candidates for the Caucus that were victorious in their races. @WVSenatePres discusses these victorious candidates to @HoppyKercheval. WATCH: https://t.co/yCFQ3nDJuy pic.twitter.com/JxEaoftl8u
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) May 11, 2022
Half of the seats in West Virginia’s 34-member state Senate are on the ballot in this year’s elections. Republicans currently hold a 23-11 supermajority in the Senate.
Republicans are likely to come out of the electoral cycle with that majority intact. The big questions are how big the majority will be and the leanings of its members.
Ten of 11 races resulted in candidates backed by the Republican Senate Committee coming out as winners on Election Night.
The one deviation occurred after rulings in the court system when Republican candidate Andrea Garrett Kiessling was ruled ineligible in Senate District 8 because she did not meet a constitutional standard of five years of state citizenship leading up to the election.
So, former Delegate Mark Hunt, a longtime Democrat who switched to Republican, defeated a field that included another former delegate, Josh Higginbotham in a district that covers Clay, Roane and parts of Kanawha, Putnam and Jackson counties. The incumbent senator in that district, District 8, is Democrat Richard Lindsay of Charleston, who is unopposed.
In a couple of cases the Republican Senate Committee backed multiple options.
One was Jason Barrett, a former Democratic delegate who switched his party to Republican and ran for Senate, won a primary race in Jefferson and Berkeley counties. Another GOP candidate in that district, Renee Wibly, also got the Senate Republican seal of approval. Of the two, Barrett was the winner.
And in a Northern Panhandle district, the Senate Republican Committee backed both Laura Wakim Chapman and Judi Varner Meyer. Chapman won by a large margin.
A couple of matchups matched incumbent senators against challenging delegates. In both cases, the Republican Senatorial Committee backed the incumbent.
One of those was Senator Mike Azinger, R-Wood, who won by 390 votes over his challenger, Delegate John Kelly, also of Wood County. Azinger will face Democrat Jody Murphy next fall.
Similarly, incumbent Senator Rollan Roberts, R-Raleigh, faced a challenge from Mick Bates, a delegate from Raleigh County who recently switched from Democrat to Republican. With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Roberts was leading by 292 votes. There is no Democratic challenger in that race.
In some races, the Senate Republican Committee backed incumbents who cruised to victory.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, dominated his primary race and will face Democrat Sam Wood next fall.
Another incumbent senator, Mark Maynard, R-Wayne, won his Republican primary handily over two opponents. He’ll face Tiffany Clemins in the General Election.
Incumbent Senator Charles Clements, R-Wetzel, was unopposed in the primary and moves on to face Democrat Eric Hayhurst, who was also unopposed.
In other races, non-incumbents with the backing of the Senate Republican Committee came out winners. These are some of the races most likely to shape the GOP majority.
Former U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart, a Republican, narrowly defeated Chad McCormick in a district that includes Boone, Kanawha, Lincoln and Logan counties. Stuart, who received GOP committee backing, will face incumbent Senator Ron Stollings, D-Boone, who was unopposed in the primary.
Former lawmaker Mike Oliverio, a former Democrat now running as a Republican from Monongalia, will face longtime Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, a Democrat from Monongalia, in the General Election.
Jay Taylor dominated a five-candidate Republican primary and will face Democrat Amanda Jo Pitzer in the General Election. That district covers Grant, Hardy, Mineral, Preston, Taylor and Tucker counties.
Vince Deeds, a former State Police officer, won over two Republican candidates including businessman Mike Steadham, who ran a vigorous campaign. Deeds will challenge Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, who was not challenged in the primary.
Some Republican candidates were unopposed in both the Primary Election and in the General Election so they were already counting on victory.
One was Senate Finance Chairman Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, who put his efforts into promoting other Republican Senate and House candidates. Another was Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan. Yet another unopposed candidate was Senator Bill Hamilton, R-Randolph, who was elected to the chamber four years ago following many years in the House of Delegates.
And another was Ben Queen, R-Harrison, a current delegate who is aiming for a Senate seat representing Harrison, Lewis, Gilmer, and Calhoun counties and part of Taylor County.