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Time has come for primary election predictions

May 6, 2018 GMT

How can we already be to the primary election? Time does fly when you’re having fun.

One of my weaknesses is that I insist on predicting the outcome of races BEFORE they are held. Often, when I flub one, I hear from hundreds who called them right — except they didn’t announce their decisions until after the election.

So, out on the limb I go to predict that Democrat incumbent U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin will have a relatively easy trip through his primary next Tuesday. I still believe the battle to oppose him in November is between Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. In the end, I think Blankenship will prevail.

Blankenship definitely came out as the winner in the Fox News debate this week. Morrisey and Rep. Evan Jenkins beat each other up orally while Blankenship smiled and delivered one-liners with the timing of a professional.

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In Congressional District 1, it appears that incumbent Republican David McKinley and Democrat Ralph Baxter will likely face off in November. District 2 will feature incumbent Republican Alex Mooney against Democrat challenger Aaron Scheinberg in the fall.

I believe Republican Delegate Carol Miller will win the 3rd District nomination. She will likely face Democrat Delegate Shirley Love in November. This is an open U.S. House seat, made so by the decision of incumbent Republican Rep. Jenkins to run for the U.S. Senate.

Former GOP State Chairman Conrad Lucas will likely finish second in the District 3 primary with Del. Rupie Phillips a close third. There is a chance that either Lucas or Phillips could gain enough to win. On the Democrat side, Tri-State Transit Authority director Paul E. Davis is a sound, articulate candidate. He simply never got the level of funding to make it a race. Logan state Sen. Richard Ojeda appeared determined to sabotage his own campaign during the final weeks. He lost significant Second Amendment and right-to-life support. Then, his silly battle with a furniture store truck driver played out on social media.

As we drew to a week before the primary, the truck driver had sued Ojeda in federal district court for violating his First Amendment rights. That likely sealed the deal for Love.

One wonders if the goal of the Miller for Congress primary commercials is to make her look as folksy and “mature” as possible. She really doesn’t look like that. The 3rd District does have a great deal of rural territory, but showing Miller as the worker on her bison farm is just not very “congressional” in my opinion.

Wrapping up the House of Delegates rundown, incumbent Republican Saira Blair is not seeking re-election in the 59th District. That likely throws the door open for Talley Ranels Reed of the Reed Pharmacy dynasty as the favorite. A Republican, Reed is favored over former Delegate Larry Kump.

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Republican Larry Faircloth Sr., a former legislator, stands a good chance of returning to Charleston from District 60. He is unopposed in the GOP primary as is Democrat incumbent S. Marshall Wilson. Democrat incumbent Jason Barrett, who squeaked out a win two years ago, will meet Republican Anthony Vitale this fall in District 61. It’s a toss-up with Republicans seeing it as one of their top five targets for turnover this fall.

Ultra-conservative Republican John Overington is retiring in 62. Tom Bibby of the GOP is favored to retain the seat over Democrat Cynthia Toodle. It’s an open seat in District 63 with Michael Folk, the incumbent Republican, running for state senate. Pam Brush is the favorite in a four-person GOP primary.

Incumbent Republicans Eric Householder and Jill Upson should keep their District 64 and 65 seats, respectively. This fall, Upson will face a return match with progressive Democrat Sammi Brown. Paul Espinosa, the incumbent Republican, should keep his seat in 66. Republican Riley Moore, the late governor’s grandson, is a heavy favorite to hold his District 67 seat against Democrat former Del. John Doyle.

Overall, the prospects for Democrats to retake the lower chamber of the Legislature are about like those in the Senate: slim and none.

Contact Ron Gregory at 304-533-5185 or ronjgregory@gmail.com.