Campaign 2020

With more voters registered as Republicans than Democrats, the Grand Old Party looks like it’s in shape to hang onto most of the statewide offices in West Virginia this election.

And that’s even with a candidate for governor — incumbent Jim Justice — who won election 4 years ago as a Democrat.

Only State Treasurer John Perdue breaks the Republican stranglehold on statewide offices. He’ll have a dogfight on his hands this time around as Riley Moore, the nephew of Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, won the GOP nomination for the office. Moore is currently a delegate from Harpers Ferry.

Democrats might stand a chance in the Congressional race that includes Hampshire County.

Republican Alex Mooney, who moved to West Virginia just to run for Congress, has held the 2nd District seat for 3 terms. He ran unopposed in the primary, as did his Democratic opponent Cathy Kunkel.

But with no races that particularly fueled turnout in either party, Kunkel drew more primary votes than Mooney did.

Justice jumped back to the Republican party within months of being elected 4 years ago. (He had been a Republican until 2015.) He has overseen growth in West Virginia’s economy, an expansive roads program and the state’s fight against COVID-19 since the pandemic set in at the end of winter.

Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango won a fractured Democratic primary to be Justice’s main opposition on the November ballot. Salango is an attorney and the owner of 304 Tees, an apparel company he founded.

Libertarian Erika Kolenich and the Mountain Party’s Daniel Lutz also have places on the ballot, along with 5 independent write-ins.

Here are the rest of the statewide races on the November ballot:

U.S. Senate — Shelley Moore Capito is seeking her 2nd 6-year term. She has proved a reliable Republican vote in the split Senate. She won the seat in a 2014 landslide over Secretary of State Natalie Tennant.

Capito has championed rural broadband in Congress.

Her Democratic challenger is Paula Jean Swearingen, who is making her 2nd run for the seat. Swearingen lost the 2018 Democratic primary to incumbent Joe Manchin.

The coal miner’s daughter supported Bernie Sanders in both his 2016 and 2020 run for president. Her positions include Medicare for all and legalization of recreational marijuana.

Attorney General — Republican Patrick Morrisey, in his 2nd term, faces a challenge from Sam Petsonk, who eked out a 145-vote victory in the Democratic primary over Isaac Sponaugle of Pendleton County.

Morrisey has built a reputation as a staunch Second Amendment advocate and opponent of the Affordable Care Act. The New Jersey native calls Jefferson County home.

Petsonk, a 9th-generation West Virginian, hails from Fayette County. Served as a legislative aide to Robert C. Byrd. He placed protecting healthcare as a top priority for the office.

Secretary of State — It’s a rematch from 2016 when Republican Mac Warner unseated Natalie Tennant, with neither candidate topping 50 percent of the vote thanks to Libertarian John Buckley’s 4.7 percent return.

This time there’s no 3rd-party candidate to muddy the waters. Warner’s takeover of the office was acrimonious, with his people accusing Tennant of leaving the office in tatters and Tennant complaining of Warner dumping many longtime employees.

The secretary of state is West Virginia’s chief election officer and oversees administrative law, business filings and licensing.

State Treasurer — Republican John McCuskey is seeking a 2nd term in another 2016 rematch. The Democrats have once again nominated Mary Ann Claytor, who McCuskey beat 58 percent to 35 percent 4 years ago. Libertarian Brenton Ricketts picked up the other 7 percent, but Libertarians didn’t nominate anyone this time around.

Agriculture Commissioner — Martinsburg Republican Kent Leonhardt will try to hang onto his seat as a non-farmer ag commissioner. He picked up 63 percent of the vote in the Republican primary to win renomination.

His opponent is Robert Beach, who won the Democratic nod with 48 percent of the vote while his opponents split the remaining 52 percent almost down the middle.

Beach is a state senator from Monongalia County. When Democrats controlled the Legislature he chaired the agriculture and transportation committees. 

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