Randy Yohe Published

W.Va. Primary Features Culture Wars, Public Works Office Changes

A picture of voting booth tables with a display of the American flag.
West Virginia primary polling places open at 6:30 Tuesday, and close at 7:30 p.m.
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Tuesday’s primary election may be the most important the state has seen in quite a while. Voters have endured a gubernatorial media campaign blitz with unprecedented mudslinging – coupled with a dominant campaign to see a new but familiar face representing West Virginia in the U.S. Senate. 

In their debates and interviews, the four Republican candidates for governor, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, former Del. Moore Capito, car dealership magnate Chris Miller and Secretary of State Mac Warner have offered plans to tackle issues like education, and substance abuse. All four are pro-coal, pro-Trump and claim to be the most conservative.

However, for all but Warner, the radio and TV campaign advertising culture wars on who is most strongly opposed to transgender children participating in girls’ sports and entering girl’s bathrooms have vilified this already challenged minority.   

When asked about his reasoning behind joining the mudslinging fray, Capito avoided a direct response.

“I’ve been around a lot of campaigns in my life,” Capito said. “Generally when you’re getting peppered it means you’re winning.”

Morisey and Miller did not respond to repeated requests for comment. 

With state unemployment at a low, corporate economic development at a high, and fairly steady economy, the broad-brush strokes of many short TV campaign ads can get refocused. Political analyst and Associate Professor of Political Science at Marshall University Marybeth Beller said national studies show going negative stimulates the base and beyond. 

”What we’ve got candidates doing is trying to look at a social agenda that’s going to promote hatred, promote fear,” Beller said, “Because the facts on the ground don’t support anything but a positive future. We do know that hate and fear are a motivating factor among the electorate.”

Interviews with 15 random voters during a downtown Charleston lunch hour, showed all but one had the same campaign ad sentiment as South Charleston’s Linda Workman.   

“My husband automatically clicks every ad off as soon as it comes on,” Workman said. “I can’t stand them anyway. They’re all the same. I don’t believe anything anyone says.”

The lone Democrat running for governor, three-term Huntington Mayor Steve Willams, has saved his campaign war chest and rhetoric for the general election. 

Term limited Gov. Jim Justice is leaving the governor’s mansion he periodically occupied. State polling shows Justice with a commanding lead over U.S. Congressman Alex Mooney in the Republican primary race to replace outgoing U.S. Sen Joe Manchin. Among the two frontrunners, Mooney touts his redness in a red state.

“I’m a proven conservative with a conservative voting record,” Mooney said. “I’ve proven that over the years by voting against the out of control spending, and I’ll continue to be a fighting conservative you give me a chance.”

Justice said he plans to bring his folksy presentation to a Washington, D.C. he has always shunned, and plans to be a senator, his way. 

“I have to be able to go to D.C. and shake up the world,” Justice said. “I’m not going to just ride along. There’s nothing that excites me about going to D.C. I’ll have to do it in my style. It’ll be different. It’ll be really different.”

Manchin has endorsed Wheeling Mayor Glen Elliot for the Democratic nomination in the Senate race. His primary challengers include former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship and Marine Corps veteran Zach Shrewsbury of Princeton. 

Other Board of Public Works offices in primary contention include Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Auditor and Commissioner of Agriculture.   

West Virginia primary polling places open at 6:30 Tuesday, and close at 7:30 p.m. West Virginia Public Broadcasting will have live primary election results and reactions throughout Tuesday evening and you can follow primary results with our live blog, highlighting “voices of the voters.” That’s on our website, wvpublic.org.