The Times West Virginian

November 17, 2013

Politics in state could get interesting

Times West Virginian

— Come next fall, West Virginia may elect the first female senator ever to represent the Mountain State.

We say that because the two major contenders are now U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, a Democrat.

Now, each of the women will have to face challengers in their respective party's primary election on May 10. And, actually, neither of them have filed precandidacy paperwork through Tennant's office.

Those who have filed those papers, expressing interest in the seat, are: Republicans Scott “Cody” Regan and Edwin Ray Vanover; Democrats Sheirl Fletcher, David S. Harless, Dennis Melton and David Walmsley; Constitution Party candidate Phil Hudok; and nonpartisan Martin Staunton.

Though they haven't filed precandidacy statements, the two have announced their intentions, have started raising money and are getting the support of key organizations and groups.

Is there excitement for the race statewide? Of course. U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller has been a fixture in the state of West Virginia since the 1960s. After coming to West Virginia as a VISTA volunteer in 1964, he was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates just two short years later. Two years after that, in 1968, Rockefeller, a Democrat, was elected secretary of state. After a three-year term as president of West Virginia Wesleyan College, in 1976 Rockefeller was elected governor and re-elected by the voters in 1980. In 1984, he was elected to the Senate, and re-elected in 1990, 1996, 2002 and 2008.

But when he announced this year that following 30 years representing West Virginia in the Senate, he would not seek re-election in 2014, the pundits started falling all over each other trying to guess who would be the first "name" to express interest in the seat. That name was Capito, followed by Tennant after a few months.

So how are they doing? The most recent poll we could find was from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling as reported in The Hill a week after Tennant announced her intention to run for the seat, too. The information is more than two and half months old, so much could have changed since then, since we are all aware how much the political landscape can change within two and a half days. But on Sept. 24, the poll gave Capito 50 percent support to Tennant's 36 percent support among the state's voters.

“Capito also has backing from more than half of independent voters and has significant crossover appeal at this point in the race. She draws 30 percent of Democratic voters away from Tennant,” The Hill reported.

But of course, we're a little less than a year out and both candidates have plenty of ammunition to use between political affiliations and the mess in Washington, D.C., with the government shutdown and budget crisis.

For instance, Tennant is never going to be able to get away from being “tied” to President Barack Obama by party, and that’s a thorn in her side because 49 percent of the state voters have a strong disapproval rating for the president. And with congressional approval in the single digits and longtime House member Capito tied to the GOP-forced budget battle this fall and the impending one at the first of the year, there's plenty of hard feelings that can be directed toward her and her campaign.

If they overcome their major obstacles and win their party’s slot on the general election ballot, it will be not only an historic race but an interesting one to watch.

Well, that’s our opinion anyway. But we wanted yours, so we took the question to the readers who log on each week to to vote in our online poll question. Last week. we wanted to find out what race has piqued their interest. We asked, “The 2014 midterm elections are gearing up, and candidates are already making announcements and seeking support. What will be the race to watch in West Virginia?”

And here's what you had to say:

• The statehouse seats. That will affect my life the most — 4.23 percent.

• The House races. After the shutdown, things will get interesting — 19.72 percent.

• Ugh. I don’t even feel like voting these days — 23 percent.

• The Senate seat. After Rockefeller’s many terms, a newcomer race will get exciting — 53.52 percent

We are certain to follow this for at least the next year, so stay tuned.

But this week, let's talk about how Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat. Well, just how fat is your goose? How much do you plan to spend on Christmas shopping this year?

Log on. Vote. Email me or respond online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor