A Guide to the May 8 West Virginia Primary Election

Apr 20, 2018

Candidates in West Virginia’s May 8 primary are hoping for the chance to earn their party’s nominations for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House or the Legislature. Early voting in West Virginia runs from April 25 through May 5.

Here is a summary of those races:

U.S. SENATE

Democrat Joe Manchin, a former governor, is seeking a second full six-year term in the Senate. He first took office after a 2010 special election prompted by the death of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

Manchin, running in a state won by Republican President Donald Trump by double digits in 2016, faces a primary challenge Coal City’s Paula Jean Swearengin, a Bernie Sanders Democrat from a coal-mining family.

The Republican primary has six candidates, including 3rd District Congressman Evan Jenkins, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

Jenkins and Morrisey have attacked each other’s records, claimed adherence to policies advocated by President Donald Trump’s administration and criticized Manchin.

Jenkins is a second-term congressman, a former state lawmaker and former executive director of the West Virginia State Medical Association. Morrisey was elected in 2016 to a second four-year term.

Blankenship was released from federal prison in May 2017 after serving a year on charges stemming from the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine that killed 29 men in southern West Virginia. It was the deadliest U.S. mine disaster in four decades.

Blankenship says he was innocent. His campaign ads tout his safety history and attack Manchin and Jenkins as career politicians.

Other GOP candidates are Bo Copley of Lenore, a miner who confronted Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016 over her remarks about cutting coal mining jobs; U.S. Navy veteran Jack Newbrough of Weirton and West Virginia National Guard Maj. Tom Willis.

U.S. HOUSE

Four Democrats and seven Republicans are running for the 3rd District seat being vacated by Jenkins.

Among the Democrats is Richard Ojeda, a state senator who gained notoriety for vocally backing a teacher pay raise a month before their nine-day statewide strike began. The other Democrats in the field are state Delegate Shirley Love, Tri-State Transit Authority CEO Paul Davis; and Janice Hagerman of Mount Hope.

The GOP candidates include former state Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas; state delegates Marty Gearheart, Rupie Phillips and Carol Miller; former delegate Rick Snuffer, Dr. Ayne Amjad of Beckley and Philip Payton of Milton.

Congressmen David McKinley from the 1st District and Alex Mooney from the 2nd District are unopposed in the GOP primary.

The 1st District Democratic primary pits Keyser attorney Tom Payne, retired CEO Ralph Baxter of Wheeling and West Virginia University law professor Kendra Fershee.

In November, Mooney will face either U.S. Army veteran Aaron Scheinberg or former Hillary Clinton state presidential campaign director Talley Sergent.

STATE SENATE

Half of the 34 state Senate seats are up for grabs this fall and all 17 incumbents are seeking re-election, including Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, who will face former U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld, a Democrat, in November.

Of the 17 races in May, six Democratic races and six on the GOP side are contested.

Republicans hold a 22-12 majority in the Senate.

STATE HOUSE OF DELEGATES

In the House, Republicans hold a 64-36 majority and all 100 seats are on the ballot. Eighteen delegates didn’t file for re-election, including Republican House Speaker Tim Armstead. That group includes 14 Republicans and four Democrats.