The contest for the Republican nomination for West Virginia Secretary of State is getting even more crowded, and that is because a Warner is getting into the race.
No, not Mac Warner. The current two-term Secretary of State is not running for re-election. Instead, he is running for the Republican nomination for Governor.
This candidate is Mac’s younger brother, Kris. Kris Warner is expected to make an announcement in the coming weeks that he is running. Warner has an event planned for December 7th at the Culture Center in Charleston.
That planned announcement could also turn into a watch party for Kris’s older brother.
That is the same evening as the Republican gubernatorial debate in Morgantown with Mac Warner, Moore Capito and Chris Miller. The forum will be broadcast on statewide radio and video streamed by MetroNews.
When I contacted Kris Warner to see if he would confirm his Secretary of State candidacy, he said only, “I plan on making an announcement about the future on December 7th.”
Warner has been involved in Republican politics all his life. He served as state Republican Party Chair from 2000 to 2004 and was among those instrumental in starting the GOP resurgence that ultimately led to the party’s dominance in West Virginia politics.
But even after that, Warner has always had his hand in GOP politics. He currently serves as executive director of the State Economic Development Authority in Governor Justice’s administration. If Warner wants to retain the job, he will have to confine his campaign duties to nights and weekends.
Warner’s entry into a statewide race puts his brother in an awkward position. Mac Warner will remain Secretary of State through the 2024 election, and as the state’s chief elections officer, he will have to keep his brother at arm’s length to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest and remain impartial.
“As the state’s chief election officer, I have sworn an oath to uphold West Virginia election laws,” Mac Warner said in a prepared statement. “While I wish my family members the best in all they do, I will remain focused on the duties and obligations of the Secretary of State’s Office.”
There are already four announced candidates for the Republican nomination for Secretary of State: Kanawha County Delegate Chris Pritt; former House of Delegates member and former Morgan County Commissioner Ken Reed; former Kanawha County Delegate, Democrat-turned-Republican Doug Skaff and Putnam County Clerk Brian Wood.
The crowded field means votes will be spread out. That gives Kris Warner an advantage because a “Warner” has already been elected Secretary of State twice. Name recognition is always helpful in politics.
But it may also cause some voter confusion, since one Warner will be on the ballot for Secretary of State and another for Governor.