West Virginia prepares for Tuesday’s gubernatorial special election

Michael Watson Contributor
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On October 4 West Virginians will elect a new governor to fill the vacancy created by Joe Manchin’s election to the U.S. Senate in Nov. 2010. Voters will choose between Democratic Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and Republican businessman Bill Maloney.

The most recent polling in the race, a Public Policy Polling survey from Sept. 1–4, shows Tomblin with a six-point lead. Tomblin has led all of Public Policy Polling’s general election surveys but his lead is shrinking as the election approaches.

National Republicans see an opportunity to pick up a governorship in a state that has not elected a Republican governor in ten years. Republicans have held the West Virginia governor’s mansion for only four of the past twenty years.

Analysts predict the election will be the closest governor’s race in any state this year. Kentucky’s Democratic governor, Steve Beshear, earns over 50 percent support in most polls against Republican challenger David Williams. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal faces token opposition in his re-election race. And in Mississippi, Republican Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant holds a commanding lead over Democratic Johnny DuPree, the mayor of Hattiesburg.

The governors’ associations of both major parties have spent large sums on the West Virginia race. The Charleston Gazette reported that the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee has spent more than $2.7 million. The Democratic Governors Association-supported America Works USA has spent over $2.3 million of its own.

Tomblin has earned most of the major endorsements in the race, including those of the National Rifle Association, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO’s statewide organization.