The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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November 3, 2010

Rahall is elected to 18th straight term in Congress

It was his toughest challenge in an election in over 30 years, Rep. Nick Rahall admitted late Tuesday night.

Yet, Rahall held off Republican challenger Elliott “Spike” Maynard to win a re-election bid for the U.S. House in the 3rd District.

With 99 percent of the precincts counted, Rahall had a 56 percent to 44 percent advantage over Maynard.

“I’m grateful and humbled by the support given to me by the great people of southern West Virginia,” Rahall said. “This was my toughest campaign in 34 years, I don’t think there’s any question about it.”

Rahall, of Beckley, will begin his 18th consecutive term in Congress. He served as chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources and vice chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. But with Republicans gaining control Tuesday, he’ll lose that status.

But not his effectiveness, Rahall added.

“I won’t be in the driver’s seat, but I’ll be in the front seat,” he said. “I’ll still be a top Democrat (in the committees).” 

“We have issues to address in a lame-duck session,” Rahall added. “That will start in a week and could very well take us up to Christmas. It’s important to put this nay-saying and name-calling behind us. We need to reach out and talk about all of the areas that we agree. There’s certainly a lot more agreement than there is disagreement. That’s what we need to stress. We may even solve some disagreements. But let’s work together.

“Just because Republicans control Congress, that doesn’t mean I will not be able to continue to produce for the people that sent me to Washington,” Rahall continued. “I’ve been in the minority before and been able to be very helpful to the people of West Virginia. I treated the minority fair during my chairmanship. So I fully expect that they will treat me fairly. I’ve been able to work across party lines.”

Getting back on task is already on Rahall’s mind.

“It’s back to work,” he said. “I’ll continue to work for our coal jobs, and our coal miners. I’ll put their health and safety No. 1. I’ll continue to build upon the improvements on our infrastructure that we’ve got under way, including the Z-Way, including the Coalfield Expressway, the King Coal Highway, water and sewage systems that are so important if we are going to diversify our economy and most importantly tourism. We’re getting ready to welcome the Boy Scouts to this area.” 

The campaign was one of the most talked about races in the state this election season.

Rahall and Maynard traded barbs via a barrage of television, radio and print advertisements, each painting his opponent in a negative light.

Two debates sponsored by The Register-Herald, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph and WVVA-TV provided fireworks as well.

“I started out positive, and I wanted to be positive the whole campaign,” Rahall recalled. “Going negative is not my character. But unfortunately we had these outside groups that raised unlimited amounts of money — I will have been outspent when it’s all said and done at least 5-to-1 — and they don’t have to disclose where the money comes from, and they stoked the fear factor. That’s not good for our democracy. It’s good to question our leaders. Healthy skepticism is excellent for a democracy and that’s the way it should be. But when outside groups come in with their own personal and political agendas, that causes me to have to respond. I wanted to be positive. I wanted to put my record of seniority, experience and values that we trust in West Virginia out there. I wanted that to be the No. 1 issue in this campaign. But it got distorted and derailed by outside groups.” 

The campaign certainly had the attention of President Obama, who called Rahall to offer congratulations shortly after Rahall accepted the victory.

“He (Obama) called to congratulate me,” Rahall said. “He said he recognized the tough times that we’re in and that this campaign was particularly tough and to survive was a remarkable feat. He said that he wants to work with me to reduce unemployment, putting our people back to work. I feel very confident that his administration will reach out across the party lines as well to try to address the issues that American people care about.”

Maynard, of Williamson, was appointed as a trial judge in Mingo County in 1981 by then-Gov. Jay Rockefeller. He was re-elected twice. In 1996, Maynard was elected to a 12-year term on the state Supreme Court. He served as chief justice in 2000 and 2004.

He lost his judicial seat in 2008 in the primary, coming in third in a battle for two available spots behind Margaret Workman and Menis Ketchum.

Formerly a Democrat, Maynard switched parties in February of 2010 and won the Republican nomination to challenge Rahall.

Calls to Maynard’s campaign for comment were not returned.

The 3rd District covers Boone, Cabell, Fayette, Greenbrier, Lincoln, Logan, McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Raleigh, Summers, Wayne, Webster and Wyoming counties in southern West Virginia.

— E-mail: jworkman@register-herald.com

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