CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Candidates in West Virginia’s primary elections Tuesday hope to earn their party’s nominations for the U.S. House or the state Legislature. The overall ballot in the midterm election may be smaller, but the voting landscape changed after the state’s once-a-decade redistricting was completed last fall. There are a dwindling number of seats contested by Democrats in a state that has turned sharply Republican.
West Virginia lost one of its three U.S. House seats based on results of the 2020 U.S. census, which showed a 3.2% decline in the state’s population over the past decade — the biggest drop of any state in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The new 2nd District features a race between incumbents in the former 1st and 2nd districts. Reps. David McKinley and Alex Mooney are joined in the GOP primary in the new 2nd District by Susan Buchser-Lochocki of Morgantown, Rhonda Hercules of Wheeling and Mike Seckman of West Union. McKinley is seeking his seventh term and Mooney his fifth.
In the 2nd District Democratic primary, security operations manager Angela Dwyer of Falling Waters faces former Morgantown City Council member Barry Lee Wendell.
In the 1st District, incumbent U.S. Rep. Carol Miller, seeking her third term, faces Republican challengers Scott Fuller of Kenova, James Edwin Houser of Mount Nebo, Zane Lawhorn of Princeton and Kent Stevens of Milton. Second-time candidate Lacy Watson of Bluefield is unopposed in the Democratic primary. Watson lost in the 2020 Democratic primary in the former 3rd District.
HOUSE OF DELEGATES
The entire 100-member state House of Delegates is up for election. Republicans hold a 78-22 supermajority. More than half of the incumbents have no opposition in Tuesday’s primary while 15 incumbents, including 10 Republicans, did not seek reelection.
For the first time, the chamber is split into 100 single-member voting districts after the passage of a 2018 restructuring bill. Previously, the House had 67 districts with more than half of the chamber elected from multiple-member districts. Because of redistricting, some incumbent lawmakers will face each other in their new districts.
There are no Democrats running in 27 of the 100 House districts. Only 16 of the Democratic primaries involve contested races.
Half of the 34-member Senate is up for election. Republicans hold a 23-11 supermajority in the chamber, where eight incumbents have no primary opposition and four others are not seeking reelection.
Democratic candidates are absent in six of the 17 Senate primaries. Only two Senate primaries have contested Democratic races.
With no presidential, gubernatorial or U.S. Senate races this year, the lines at the polls are expected to be light. In nonpresidential election years, the primary election turnout statewide was 26% in 2018, 20% in 2014 and 24% in 2010.
West Virginia’s Supreme Court on Friday let stand a lower court’s disqualification of a state Senate candidate over a residency requirement.
A Kanawha County judge ruled in a voter’s challenge last week that 8th District candidate Andrea Garrett Kiessling could not seek office because she has not been a state resident for the required five years prior to the election as required by the constitution. On Friday the justices declined a motion to temporarily stay the circuit court’s order and refused a motion “as moot” for expedited consideration.