State executive primary preview: Five of West Virginia's six incumbents seek re-election

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May 7, 2012

By Ballotpedia's state executive team

CHARLESTON, WV: Six state executive offices are up for election in West Virginia this year. Primary elections will be held for three of the offices: governor, treasurer and agriculture commissioner. The other offices - secretary of state, attorney general and auditor - have only one Republican and one Democrat running for each, and will not be on the ballot.

Five incumbents are seeking re-election and only one, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, faces a primary challenger - Arne Moltis. The state's current agriculture commissioner, Gus Douglass, is retiring after serving 48 years in office. Five Democrats and one Republican are vying for his seat.

Polls are open tomorrow from 6:30 am until 7:30 pm, EST.[1] (dead link)


Incumbent Earl Ray Tomblin (D) won a special election in October 2011 to fill the remainder of Joe Manchin's unexpired term when Manchin won election to the U.S. Senate. This year, Tomblin is running for election to a four-year term of his own. The list of gubernatorial candidates should sound familiar to anyone who followed last year's race: all four candidates also ran in 2011. Tomblin will face Arne Moltis in tomorrow's primary while Bill Maloney and Ralph William Clark will face off in the Republican contest.

Barring an unforeseen turn of events, Tomblin and Maloney will meet again in the November 6, 2012 general election. The two have out-fundraised their competition by a staggering amount and are, along with pollsters, already focusing their attention on November's general election. In a poll conducted for the Charleston Daily Mail last week, 60% of voters indicated they would vote for Tomblin and 32% for Maloney, with only 8% undecided.[2]

Democratic Darrell McGraw was first elected attorney general in 1992

Voters will have to wait until November to get their hands on a contested ballot for attorney general. There are only two candidates vying for the office of top prosecutor this year, Democratic incumbent Darrell McGraw and Republican newcomer Patrick Morrisey. Each has his eyes trained on the general election, when the five term legacy of attorney general McGraw will face what many consider to be its biggest challenge yet.

The current atmosphere in West Virginia is verging on hostile toward the Democratic party, due in large part to President Obama's perceived interference with the state's economically essential coal industry, and Democrats seeking election in 2012 fear that ballot-association with the president could drag them down.[3] This potential threat to McGraw's re-election bid comes in addition to concerns about the long-serving official's tapering support, evidenced by razor-thin victories in the last two elections, and the emergence of a more than viable Republican opponent with substantial experience as a healthcare legal specialist in a year where healthcare is a marquee issue. Morrisey has so far outraised McGraw by almost double, however McGraw has managed in the past to win elections without a packed campaign coffer.[4]

First elected in 2008, incumbent Natalie Tennant (D) will defend her post against Republican challenger state Rep. Brian Savilla in the general election. Savilla's chief campaign platform is increasing the integrity of the state's voting process through voter-ID laws and expanding the office's election fraud division.[5]

Both unopposed in their respective primaries, the candidates have been lying low so far, but the race is expected to heat up as November comes into view.

Incumbent Perdue has served as Treasurer for 15 years.

Democratic incumbent John Perdue was first elected to the position of West Virginia Treasurer in 1996. Since then he has won re-election in three subsequent elections. In 2011, he made an unsuccessful bid for governor, coming in fourth out of six candidates with 12.54 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary.

While Perdue is unopposed in the upcoming primary, State Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall (West Virginia) will take on Putnam Assistant Prosecutor and Hurricane City Attorney Steve Connolly for the Republican nomination.

Hall has been a state legislator for a total of 15 years, serving in the Senate since 2007 and having previously served in the House from 1995-2005. His current term does not expire until 2015, so even if he loses his bid for Treasurer he will retain his Senate seat.

Incumbent Gainer has served as Auditor for 19 years.

Democratic incumbent Glen Gainer was first elected as West Virginia State Auditor in 1992, succeeding his father. Glen has been re-elected four times since and, between the two of them, a Gainer has controlled the office for the last 35 years. He is unopposed in the primary.

Larry V. Faircloth is unopposed for the Republican primary. Faircloth spent 24 years in the West Virginia House of Delegates and has been a small business owners for three decades. Running for governor in 2011, he came in fourth out of 8 candidates in the Republican primary.

Incumbent Douglass did not seek re-election.

Democratic incumbent Gus Douglass did not seek re-election. He first assumed office in 1964 and was subsequently been re-elected ever since, with the exception of 1988 when he ran for Governor. Five Democrats and one Republican are seeking to take his place.

Kent Leonhardt, a farmer and retired lieutenant colonel in the United States Marine Corp, is unopposed for the Republicans. He was selected by the party as their nominee in February after Mike Teets withdrew from the race.[6]

Candidates on the Democratic side are as follows:

  • Walt Helmick - Helmick is a state Senator. He has represented District 15 since being appointed in 1990. In late-February a suit was filed against Helmick claiming that he failed to meet the requirement that a candidate for Agriculture Commissioner must have an agriculture business for at least ten years as his chief business. On March 1, a Kanawha County Circuit judge refused the petition, ruling Helmick could remain on the ballot.[7]
  • Joe Messineo - Messineo owns and operates a farm. He has worked extensively for the United States Department of Agriculture, including 17 years with Veterinary and Plant Quarantines Services and 15 years as "Officer in Charge" of the state of West Virginia. He also worked for three years as a food safety inspector/animal health technician for the U.S. Army.[8]
  • Sally Shepherd - Shepherd is a long time farmer. She has previously served as the Past President of WV Farmland Preservation.[9]
  • Steve Miller - Miller currently serves as Assistant Commissioner for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA). He first started with the WVDA in 1981 as a Dairy Specialist and then served as Marketing Specialist to Executive Director of Eastern Operations.[10]
  • Bob Tabb - Tabb served as a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, representing District 56 from 2002-2009. He has worked as an emergency medical technician, farmer, and nurseryman.[11]

See also


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