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How independent voters will impact the WV governor’s race

Earlier this year, the West Virginia Republican Party Executive Committee voted to limit the party’s Primary Election to only Republican voters beginning in 2026. That means the May 14th Primary is the last time West Virginia voters with no party affiliation will be allowed to play a role in who the Republicans nominate.

Independents will go out with a bang, since they will play a key role in who wins the Republican nomination for Governor. Here is why:

The MetroNews West Virginia Poll* released last week had Patrick Morrisey at 31 percent, Moore Capito at 29 percent, Chris Miller at 16 percent and Mac Warner at 12 percent, with 10 percent undecided. That was a poll of likely Republican and independent voters.

Morrisey’s lead over Capito extends to seven points (32 percent to 25 percent) when only Republican voters are counted (with Miller at 17 percent and Warner at 10 percent). However, Capito surges ahead of Morrisey when only independents are considered.

The poll showed Capito leads Morrisey 38 percent to 27 percent among independents who will request a Republican ballot. (Warner is at 13 percent and Miller at 12 percent.)

Our pollster, Rex Repass of Research America, said “A strong turnout of traditional conservative voters means Morrisey will likely win, although Miller is a wildcard because he has more money to spend. However, if there is a high incidence of independent/unaffiliated voters in the Republican Primary, then Capito is more likely to win.”

So, the question is how many independents will turn out and vote Republican?

One in four West Virginia voters (290,719) has no party affiliation, but not all of them will vote and not all those who vote will choose a Republican ballot. Repass based his analysis on an estimate that about 25 percent of the vote in the Republican Primary will be independents.

Capito is hoping for an even higher turnout of independents, somewhere between 28 and 33 percent. That would give Capito a significant advantage. It would also be much higher than any recent election.

But voters can be unpredictable. What if the turnout of voters with no party affiliation is lower? Remember that Morrisey was among those who tried to get the GOP Executive Committee to close the primary to Republicans only starting this year, so he knows that he runs stronger among traditional conservative Republicans.

The cliché about elections is that it is all about turnout, and that is often repeated for a reason. In a close race like this one, which candidate can do a better job of getting their people to the polls can be the difference.

Starting in 2026, West Virginia voters with no party affiliation either must choose a Democratic ballot or limit their choices to non-partisan races. Only those registered as Republicans will decide their party’s nominees.

However, for one last time, independents will be able to vote in the Republican Primary, and the level of their participation will likely decide who will be the party’s nominee for Governor.

*(The MetroNews West Virginia Poll is presented by The Health Plan–Known for exceptional customer service and support with a nationwide network of physicians, headquartered right here in West Virginia. The Health Plan: We are here for you.”)

 

 

 

 





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