CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia voters nominated candidates Tuesday in primaries for the U.S. House and the 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.
U.S. Reps. Alex Mooney and Carol Miller, two incumbent West Virginia Republicans backed by former President Donald Trump, won their respective primaries Tuesday.
Mooney defeated fellow incumbent Rep. David McKinley in the 2nd District GOP primary.
McKinley was sharply criticized by Trump when he broke with his party as one of 13 Republicans to vote with Democrats to support President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. Trump called McKinley a RINO, or “Republican in Name Only” and endorsed Mooney the day President Joe Biden signed the infrastructure law.
Mooney is seeking his fifth term. McKinley was seeking his seventh. Others candidates in the GOP primary were Susan Buchser-Lochocki of Morgantown, Rhonda Hercules of Wheeling and Mike Seckman of West Union.
Mooney will face Democrat Barry Lee Wendell in November. Wendell defeated security operations manager Angela Dwyer of Falling Waters on Tuesday.
Miller, also endorsed by Trump, easily won the Republican nomination in West Virginia’s 1st District, defeating four little-known candidates and setting herself on a clear path to reelection.
Miller will vie for her third term in the House in the fall against Democrat Lacy Watson, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary. Watson, of Bluefield, lost in the 2020 Democratic primary in the former 3rd District.
According to Federal Election Commission records, Miller’s campaign raised more than $676,000, exponentially more than her GOP challengers combined: Scott Fuller of Kenova, James Edwin Houser of Mount Nebo, Zane Lawhorn of Princeton and Kent Stevens of Milton.
Miller had voted against the creation of a commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. She also voted against President Joe Biden’s massive infrastructure bill.
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.
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 was 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 were absent in six of the 17 Senate primaries. Only two Senate primaries had contested Democratic races.
With no presidential, gubernatorial or U.S. Senate races this year, the lines at the polls were generally light. In nonpresidential election years, the primary election turnout statewide was 26% in 2018, 20% in 2014 and 24% in 2010.
According to the Secretary of State’s office, nearly 59,000 people voted early in person and about 3,900 returned an absentee ballot.
Among registered voters statewide, nearly 39% are Republican, about 34% are Democrats and 23% have no party affiliation. Other parties make up the rest.
West Virginia’s Supreme Court on Friday let stand a lower court’s disqualification of a Republican 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.
Democrats and Republicans weren’t the only parties on the primary ballot. The Mountain Party has two candidates running in the House of Delegates. Bud Anderson will take on Democratic incumbent Doug Skaff and Republican Ernest Blevins in a Charleston-area district this fall, while Dylan Parsons will face Democratic incumbent Lisa Zukoff and Republican Charles Sheedy in a Northern Panhandle district. All were unopposed in their respective primaries Tuesday.