Manchin Favored to Win West Virginia Senate Primary

Incumbent governor has outraised his opposition, 10 candidates vie for GOP nomination.

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Tuesday saw high-profile primaries in five states, and the last big primary days of the year comes on September 14 seven states will choose their major-party congressional nominees. Flying under the radar are Louisiana and West Virginia, which hold their primaries on Saturday. In Louisiana, the contenders for one Senate seat and seven House seats will be chosen. And in West Virginia, Republican and Democratic candidates will be nominated for the office vacated by the death of longtime Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd.


When Byrd died in June at the age of 92, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III had a choice. He could follow existing West Virginia law and appoint a placeholder to occupy the seat until 2013, when Byrd's term would have ended, or he could push for a 2010 special election for the seat. After Manchin appointed his former general counsel Carte Goodwin to the seat, the state legislature (at Manchin's urging) decided to hold the special election. Saturday's primary will finalize the nominees for that November contest. 

Manchin himself is favored to win the Democratic primary, but he is not running unopposed. He will face 95-year-old former U.S. Rep. Ken Hechler, as well as environmental specialist and former state delegate Sheirl Fletcher. 

Hechler has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, a national environmental advocacy organization, and he has made fighting against mountaintop mining in West Virginia a major focus of his campaign. Fletcher, meanwhile, has said she would oppose cap-and-trade energy legislation and make job creation one of her top priorities. Both are at a major fundraising disadvantage to Manchin: Hechler reported $5,435 in receipts as of August 8, the most recent period covered in his preprimary report filed with the Federal Election Commission, and Fletcher's $7,190 in fundraising includes a $5,000 loan from the candidate herself. Manchin reported a fundraising total of $418,000 as of August 8, and has proceeded to accumulate over $770,000 more since then. 

Ten candidates have filed papers in the Republican primary. Businessman John Raese appears to be the strongest candidate in the field. Aside from gaining a high-profile endorsement from Oklahoma GOP Sen. Tom Coburn, Raese was the Republican nominee to run against Byrd in 2006, which may have also given him some name recognition. Despite Raese's 30-point loss in 2006, that recognition would be useful should he win the primary and potentially take on the governor in the general election. 

Raese also is well ahead in fundraising, having raised $840,000--over $800,000 more than his nearest competitor, of the two who have filed pre-primary reports with the FEC. Raese's total includes over $550,000 taken in since his August 8 report, $400,000 of which is from his own pocket.