CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — There were few surprises in West Virginia’s primary elections Tuesday in races that will set the stage for more compelling fall matchups, including who will replace retiring longtime U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller.
The primary whittled down the field for general election races that could shake up West Virginia’s political landscape. In federal races, one House and one Senate seat are open, and a longtime congressman faces a tough re-election.
As West Virginia turns increasingly conservative, a net flip of four seats also could put Republicans in charge of the state House of Delegates for the first time in 85 years.
At the top of the ticket, Republican U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and current West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant advanced to a general election showdown to replace Rockefeller, who has held the seat since 1985.
The state has sent only Democrats to the Senate for 55 years. West Virginia also has never elected a female senator.
Turnout was low to moderate Tuesday, and only minor problems were reported statewide, Tennant said. Among those issues: Voting machines running out of paper, improperly marked precincts and road work delaying voters on their way to the polls.
Capito’s departure sparked a cluttered sprint for her House seat. Seven Republicans were on the ballot for the state’s 2nd Congressional District, making it one of the most hotly contested primaries.
Alex Mooney, former Maryland Republican Party chairman and state senator, will meet ex-West Virginia Democratic Party chairman Nick Casey for Capito’s seat after a convincing primary wins.
Amid dismal midterm conditions for Democrats, the 2nd Congressional District is one of a few nationally that the party considers a possible pick-up, said Robert Rupp, a political science professor at West Virginia Wesleyan College.
West Virginia Democrats are particularly hampered by President Barack Obama, who lost the state badly in 2008 and 2012 and remains unpopular.
Rep. Nick Rahall, a 19th-term Democratic congressman, defeated Democratic foe Richard Ojeda in the 3rd Congressional District. Rahall will face Republican state Sen. Evan Jenkins in November.
In the 1st Congressional District, neither GOP Rep. David McKinley nor Democratic state Auditor Glen Gainer faced a primary opponent. McKinley has $1.4 million in the bank, almost nine times as much as Gainer.
The entire 100-seat state House of Delegates is up for grabs this year with the Democratic majority on the line. Several Democratic and Republican lawmakers fell to challengers from their own parties Tuesday. Fewer than half of the 67 House of Delegates districts featured any primary challenge. Only four of 17 Senate seats on the ballot included primary contests.
Party competition knocked off at least five incumbent Democrats and one Republican.
Democratic Sen. Sam Cann lost to Mike Romano in the priciest state primary. Romano, a Democratic Harrison County commissioner, shelled out $137,000. Cann spent about $73,800 in a losing effort to defend his Harrison County-anchored seat. Romano will face Republican Mike Queen in the 12th District race.