by Ron Gregory
CHARLESTON — The number of candidates adding to state, regional and Kanawha County rolls has picked up a week into the filing period. Candidates for the 2016 election could first file on January 11. They have until midnight, Saturday, January 30, to make their candidacies official.
However, several had already filed by the end of last week when the office of Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick filed updates. County courthouses and statehouse offices were closed today (Monday, January 18) for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Updates from other counties in the region will be provided tomorrow.
Meanwhile, in Kanawha County, the same list of current county officers who previously filed remained unopposed at the end of the week. Republican County Clerk McCormick and GOP Prosecutor Charles Miller filed earlier for election. Democrats Dave Hardy (County Commission), Cathy Gatson (Circuit Clerk), Sallie Robinson (Assessor) filed for re-election. Former Sheriff Michael Rutherford filed for his old office as a Democrat. His brother, current Sheriff Johnny Rutherford, is retiring at the end of this term.
At the statehouse, former state House of Delegates Democrat Mike Manypenny has filed to oppose current Republican Congressman David McKinley in the First Congressional District. Manypenny served from the 42nd and 49th districts in the state House from January 2009 until January 2015. He was replaced by Republican Amy Summers and had earlier made known his intentions to challenge McKinley. Born in East Liverpool, Ohio, Manypenny now lives in Grafton.
In the Second Congressional district, former Delegate Mark Hunt is the only Democrat who has filed. Incumbent Republican Alex X. Mooney has filed as has GOP challenger Mark Savitt. Republican incumbent Congressman Evan Jenkins is the only candidate who has filed thusfar for the Third Congressional District seat in Southern West Virginia.
Three candidates who filed earlier are the only ones on the books for Governor. They are Republican State Senate President Bill Cole, and Democrats Booth Goodwin and Jim Justice.
For Secretary of State, Democrat incumbent Natalie Tennant and Republican Mac Warner have filed.
For Auditor, where incumbent Democrat Glen Gainer has announced he is retiring, Democrat Mary Ann Claytor of St. Albans has filed as has Democrat Robin Righter of Shinnston. Republican legislator John McCuskey has also filed.
Claytor says on her Website that she worked for the State Tax Department for more than 20 years. She majored in accounting at West Virginia State University and has a Masters Degree in Religion from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
“I … have a reputation for making being audited a pleasure and fun for those that I have had the pleasure of auditing even when I have to report violations,” she writes on her home page. “If you are tired of politicians or candidates with political clout but don’t actually possess the qualifications of a bookkeeper for the state of West Virginia, then I am definitely the candidate for you.”
Righter is listed as a tax preparer and 1993 graduate of Lincoln High School in Shinnston. Although she apparently does not have a campaign Website, Bizapedia lists her as a member of Fracking Solutions LLC.
McCuskey, who represents the 35th District of Kanawha County in the state House, says he is running as part of a “new team.” The candidate says on his campaign Website that he wants “to achieve an accountable and efficient government that works for all West Virginians.”
Incumbent State Treasurer John Perdue, a Democrat, is seeking re-election. At this point, only Republican banker Ann Urling of Charleston has filed to challenge him.
For Commissioner of Agriculture, incumbent Democrat Walt Helmick has filed as has Republican Kent Leonhardt. The Republican was elected to the State Senate in 2014 from the Second District. He announced his intention to run against Helmick by way of MetroNews and followed up by filing official paperwork. A former Marine, Leonhardt says he and his wife restored a farm that had been abandoned for over 40 years in Monongalia County.
In 2012, Leonhardt was the Republican nominee for Agriculture Commissioner, losing to Helmick by a margin of 316,591 to 297,088.
For Attorney General, incumbent Republican Patrick Morrisey and Democrat Delegate Doug Reynolds of Cabell County have filed. Beth Walker of Morgantown and Bill Wooten of Beckley remain the only two candidates who have filed for a spot on the non-partisan Supreme Court. One current justice, Brent Benjamin, is expected to file as well.
For State Senate in the Sixth District, currently held by Cole, Democrat Brandon Barker and Republican Chandler Swope have filed. Cole is, as noted, running for Governor this year leaving an open Senate seat to be filled.
In the Seventh Senate District, currently held by Democrat Art Kirkendoll of Logan County, three candidates have filed. Democrat Richard Ojeda of Holden is on the ticket as are Republicans Jordan Ray Bridges of Logan and Gary Johngrass of Branchland.
The only candidate who has filed at this time for the seat left vacant by Daniel Hall’s resignation is Mike Goode, a Democrat. Hall, elected as a Democrat in 2012, represented Senate District Nine. He famously switched party affiliation in 2014 to give Republicans control of the State Senate for the first time in more than 80 years. At press time, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a court challenge as to which party Hall’s replacement should come from.
Nominating a successor to Hall is ultimately Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s option but the Court stayed any action by Tomblin until they rule in the matter. Ordinarily, a Governor must appoint someone of the same political affiliation as the resigning officer. In Hall’s case, the primary argument is that he was a Democrat when elected but a Republican when he resigned. Each party feels a member of its group should be chosen. The Court is expected to act quickly on the matter, from which Benjamin has recused himself.
The District 17 Senate seat held by Democrat Corey Palumbo already has a Republican candidate in Chris Stansbury. He is currently a member of the House of Delegates from Kanawha County and is an optometrist. Palumbo is a well-known Charleston attorney and former House of Delegates member. He is the son of iconic former State Senator Mario Palumbo.
In the 13th House District, where there are two delegates, Democrat Scott Brewer of Mason County has filed. Republicans Joshua Higginbotham of Putnam, Michael Ihle of Jackson and Robert Marchal have also filed to run. Republicans Scott Cadle and Ihle currently represent the district.
Incumbent Republican Geoff Foster of Putnam has filed in the 15th District. Incumbent Democrat Justin Marcum of Mingo has filed for re-election in the 20th District. At this time he is being challenged by former Mingo County Commissioner Ronnie Blankenship.
In the 21st District, formerly served by Delegate Harry Keith White, who resigned, there are now three candidates. They include his wife, Phyllis White of Gilbert who was appointed to replace him; Gilbert Mayor Vivian Kennedy Livingood; and Roger Stacy of Jolo in McDowell County. White and Livingood are Democrats and Stacy is a Republican.
Two Republicans, Zack Maynard of Harts and incumbent Michel Moffatt of Hurricane, have filed for the two seats from the 22nd District. Incumbent Democrat Jeff Eldridge, who has considered running for another office, had not filed as of press time.
For House from the 23rd District, currently represented by Republican Joshua Nelson, two Democrats have filed. Nelson has chosen to run for Boone County Commission rather than re-election. Democrats who have filed are former Sheriff Rodney Miller and Larry Blethen of Madison. Incumbent Democrat Rupie Phillips is the only candidate who has filed from the 24th District.
The 35th District, which has four delegates, currently has six candidates for the posts. They are Democrats Ben Adams of Charleston, incumbent Andrew Byrd of South Charleston, Shawn Little of Cross Lanes and Benjamin Sheridan of St. Albans; and Republicans Charlotte Lane of Charleston and incumbent Eric Nelson, also of Charleston. McCuskey and Stansbury, the other two incumbents, are running for other offices as noted.
There are four candidates for the three seats from District 36. They include Democrats Andrew Robinson, former Delegate Danny Wells and Don Wilson, all of Charleston. Republican Chelsea Walker-Gaskins of Charleston is also running. Incumbent Democrat Nancy Peoples Guthrie had earlier announced her intention not to seek re-election. Democrat incumbent Larry Rowe and Republican incumbent Brad White had not filed as of press time.
Incumbent Democrat Mike Pushkin has filed for re-election in Charleston’s downtown and West Side 37th District. There were no challengers at press time. In the 38th District, currently represented by Republican Patrick Lane, Republicans David Bender and Nancy Foster have filed.
Incumbent Republican Ron Walters has filed for re-election in the 39th District. The only other candidate who has filed is Chris Reed of the Mountain Party.
For Circuit Judge, Joshua Butcher and Douglas Witten have filed for the Division One post while incumbent Eric O’Briant has filed for Division Two. All are Logan residents. Meanwhile, all of Kanawha’s incumbents have filed and face no opposition as of yet for the seven division posts. In the Boone/Lincoln circuit, Lincoln Judge Jay Hoke has filed for Division Two and Will Thompson has filed in Division One. Both are the incumbents.
Putnam County’s two incumbent circuit judges have filed for re-election from their respective divisions. Joe Reeder and Philip Stowers are each running for another term. In Mingo County, Williamson Mayor Robert Carlton has filed to challenge sitting Judge Miki Thompson. Tonya Hatfield has filed for Family Court Judge in Mingo.
Incumbent Family Court Judges Kelly Codispoti and Christopher Workman have filed for re-election in Logan County. In Kanawha, incumbent Robert Montgomery is seeking re-election in Division One; Kenneth Ballard in Division Two; Joe Zak in Division Three; and Sharon Mullens in Division Five. Other candidates are Lera Van Meter in Division Four and Jim Douglas in Division Five.