West Virginia Attorney General election, 2012

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The West Virginia attorney general election took place November 6, 2012. The primary took place on May 8, 2012.

Incumbent Darrell McGraw (D) was likened to a cat on election day: "He always seems to lands on his feet."[1] Despite prevailing in the past two general election races-his fourth and fifth for attorney general-by less than one percentage point apiece, the seemingly indomitable West Virginian sought a sixth consecutive term in office in 2012. McGraw lost to newcomer Patrick Morrisey (R) in his bid to defend the seat he had occupied since 1992.

Morrisey's central platform was supporting the multi-state lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act;[1] Indeed, the candidate told a conservative press source in June that “I really didn’t intend to run for anything this year, but then [McGraw] would not join the other state attorneys general who were suing over Obamacare.”[2]

Morrisey moved to West Virginia in 2006 but retained employment at a firm in Washington D.C. where he specialized in heath care and federal regulatory cases. He had not practiced law in West Virginia or represented any West Virginian clients. Morrisey was admitted to the state bar 4 days before filing to run for the job of the state's top prosecutor, amid declarations about bringing a "fresh face" to the office.[3]

McGraw was ranked fifth worst out of 50 Attorneys General in the nation by the Competitive Enterprise Institute in 2010.[4] Hans Bader, who authored the report, defended McGraw's poor rating, writing, “Darrell McGraw, attorney general of West Virginia since January 1993, has violated the most basic duty of his office, to defend the state in court.”[5]

This controversial disparity between the candidates' backgrounds was a fixture of their respective campaigns: McGraw said Morrisey was too fresh[3], and Morrisey said McGraw was too old[6].

In the week leading up to the primary, Morrisey capitalized on West Virginia's strained relationship with the Democratic party, reflected in President Obama's basement level approval ratings, by calling for McGraw to issue a public statement of allegiance to Obama. McGraw's office did not respond to the call.[7]. Other Democratic West Virginian officials, such as Gov. Tomblin as well as a handful of state legislators, had been distancing themselves politically from the President in recognition of the voting public's disposition against him. Obama had been widely vilified for his performance presiding over the EPA in its attempts to stifle the state's economically essential coal industry. Democratic leaders seeking re-election in 2012 feared the consequences of sharing the ballot with such an unpopular headliner- Despite having twice the number of Democrats than Republicans, an April 2012 poll revealed Obama to be trailing then-future Republican opponent Mitt Romney by 17 points in West Virginia.[8]


Donkey symbol.png Democratic candidate

  • Incumbent Darrell McGraw was first elected to the office of AG in 1992.

Gop logo2.jpg Republican candidate

  • Newcomer Patrick Morrisey was a health-care attorney who wished to bring his 20 years of legal experience to an office he said has been compromised by corruption and outdated leadership practices. He anchored his campaign to McGraw's mishandling of the President's health reform law, which he said ought to be challenged for "saddling West Virginians with new financial burdens, rising health care costs and unconstitutional mandates." Morrisey honored GOP party lines with his statement: "My position on Obamacare is clear: let's repeal it and start over."[9]


Morrisey raised the stakes in mid February when he challenged McGraw to a debate tour that would bring the campaign to each of West Virginia's 55 counties. He expressed willingness to coordinate with McGraw on the logistics of holding 55 debates, stating, "the point is that no county will be left behind during this campaign."

In response to Morrisey's repeated requests for McGraw to join him in debate prior to the general election, McGraw issued a series of press releases stating his outright refusal, on principle, to accept his opponent's inducements, given the role and inherent duty of the attorney general as a law enforcement official. "Any debate would revolve around law enforcement, and I believe law enforcement and politics should not be mixed; I don't think it's good policy to mix law enforcement and politics."[10]

During his 2008 campaign, McGraw garnered criticism for declining an invitation by then-Republican opponent Dan Greear to participate in a public debate.[11]

General Election

Attorney General of West Virginia General Election, 2012
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Darrell McGraw Incumbent 48.8% 267,135
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngPatrick Morrisey 51.2% 280,695
Total Votes 547,830
Election Results West Virginia Secretary of State Election Results Center.

Primary Election

Incumbent Darrell McGraw (D) and Patrick Morrisey (R) filed for the attorney general election and ran unopposed in their respective parties' primaries on May 8, 2012, earning automatic advancement to the general election.

1 Due dates for reports
2 Candidates

Due dates for reports

The Secretary of State administers campaign finance law and maintains all records online.

For the primary election:

  • First report -- due by April 6, 2012
  • Pre-Primary report -- due by April 27, 2012
  • Post-Primary report -- due by June 19, 2012

For the general election:

  • First report -- due by September 28, 2012
  • Pre-general report -- due by October 26, 2012
  • Post-general report -- due by December 19, 2012

The year-end annual report for 2012 is due by April 5, 2013.



Darrell V. McGraw, Jr.

Darrell V. McGraw, Jr. Campaign Finance Reports
Report Date Filed Beginning Balance Cash Contributions In-kind Contributions (Expenditures) Cash On Hand
Primary - First Report[12] April 6, 2012 $0.00 $83,080.00 $1,000.00 $(4,452.88) $78,627.12
Pre-Primary Report[13] April 27, 2012 $78,627.12 $9,520.00 $225.29 $(6,186.86) $86,413.14
Post-Primary Report[14] June 19, 2012 $86,413.14 $10,250.00 $0.00 $(477.28) $96,185.86


Patrick Morrisey

Patrick Morrisey Campaign Finance Reports
ReportDate FiledBeginning BalanceTotal Contributions
for Reporting Period
ExpendituresCash on Hand
Primary FirstApril 6 2012$0.00$151,627.43$(26,331.90)$144,421.84
Pre-PrimaryApril 27 2012$144,421.84$21,119.90$(35,768.80)$156,111.65
Post-PrimaryJune 19 2012$156,111.65$79,735.31$(22,966.84)$242,579.87
Running totals

Key dates

  • Administrative deadlines are at close of business (5:00) unless otherwise noted.
Deadline Event
Jan. 9 - Jan. 28 Candidate filing period
Apr. 18 Voter registration for primary election
May 8 Primary election
Oct. 24 Voter registration for general election
Nov. 6 General election

Race ratings

In the October 2012 race ratings conducted by Governing, the race for Attorney General of West Virginia shifted from a toss-up to leaning Democratic.[15] According to the rating, five-term incumbent Darrell McGraw is "a populist and longtime target of business groups, but his familiarity to voters gives him a modest edge against Republican Patrick Morrisey. National Democrats are highly unpopular in the state, but West Virginia Democrats, like McGraw, know how to survive."[15]

Race tracking

See also: Ballotpedia Election Racetracking
2012 Race Rankings - West Virginia Attorney General
Race Tracker Race Rating
Governing[15] Leans Democratic

See also


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