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Familiar names vie for a rare open U.S. Senate seat in W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — United States senators from West Virginia don’t change very often.

Since 1958 only six individuals have held the office. Carte Goodwin was one of those, and he only served on an interim basis for six months. Only the oldest voters in this year’s primary election can remember any names other than senators Jennings Randolph, Robert C. Byrd, Jay Rockefeller, Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin.

So when Manchin announced he would not seek another term it created a rare open seat in the upper chamber of Congress from the Mountain State and drew a lot of interest.

Jim Justice(Governor’s Office)

Republican Governor Jim Justice believes his eight years as the state’s chief executive combined with his business experience qualified him to be exactly what West Virginia needs in the position.

“I’m a pretty good negotiator and surely pretty good at the table. I’ve got a lot of business sense and everything, and I promise you nobody preaches the West Virginia story any better than I, because I believe it,” Justice said.

The governor won the endorsement of former President Donald Trump and has used his friendship with the past president as another potential appeal for voters. Justice contended for too long West Virginia has sent people to Washington who didn’t have the best interest of the state at heart.

“We’ve been short changed forever because everybody traded their vote away to get more stuff or prestige for themselves,” Justice said. “I don’t want anything for me, I never have. I am a patriot through and through. I have rock solid conservative values and with all of that being said, I just want to serve.”

MORE: If voters send Justice to Capitol Hill, he says ‘I’ll have to do it in my style’

Alex Mooney

But Congressman Alex Mooney, also a Republican, vehemently disagreed with Justice’s credentials — particularly his claim of rock solid conservatism.

“My opponent has supported all of the Biden spending bills. He’s supported the Fairness Act with special rights for transgenders. There’s only one conservative in this race and you’re talking to him, me Alex Mooney. Jim Justice is a liberal and was elected as a Democrat,” Mooney said.

Mooney has served as the state’s 2nd District representative in the U.S. House of Representatives since his first election in 2015. He is a hardliner for right wing causes in Washington and is aligned with the most conservative members of the Republican caucus in the U.S. House. Mooney ripped into Justice repeatedly in the campaign.

“He was elected as a Democrat. He tried the largest tax increase in the history of West Virginia when he was elected in 2017, the Republican Legislature defeated it, but he did raise the gas tax. Then he attacked me because I wouldn’t vote for Joe Biden’s $1.3 trillion infrastructure bill.”

Justice and Mooney have been the front runners who emerged from a crowded Republican field. The candidates on the GOP ballot also include Zane Lawhorn of Princeton, Don Lindsay of Hardy County, Bryan McKinney from Inwood, Janet McNulty of Martinsburg, and Bryan Bird from Beckley.

Manchin, long the standard bearer for state Democratic politics, endorsed Wheeling Mayor Glen Elliot for the Democratic nomination in the Senate race. Elliot started his career working for the late U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd. He admitted the Democratic party today isn’t the one he learned to appreciate growing up.

“I’m running in the traditional sense of the Democratic party going back to Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy. That’s the Democratic party I speak of, I don’t know what voters think the Democratic party has become, but if you talk to people they are tired of the way things are and are hoping for a new direction. I hope I can be that messenger,” Elliott said.

Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott

He’s faced a challenge in the primary from another well-known individual. However, the emergence of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship as a Democratic candidate was a move few saw coming. Blankenship previously ran for the Senate as a Republican and has been one of those who has played a key role in the transition of West Virginia from a blue state to a red state in the past two decades.

“I was on the other side for a long time and now the Republicans have taken over West Virginia and the crazies have taken over the Democratic party nationally. I don’t think West Virginians are typical San Francisco or D.C. Democrats. Hopefully they’ll send me to Washington to send a message they are not for the things the national party represents,” Blankenship said.

He claimed his experiences in dealing in the business world with various federal agencies, often in an adversarial role, makes him best equipped to know what needs to be fixed in the federal government to benefit West Virginia.

Don Blankenship

Joining Blankenship and Elliot on the Democratic ballot for U.S. Senate is Zach Shrewsbury of Princeton.

The two party nominees will face off in November for the right to only be the 7th U.S. Senator from West Virginia in 66 years.

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