The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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February 13, 2011

14 candidates for W.Va. governor ready to fight for the office

BECKLEY — CHARLESTON — Like a crowded NASCAR field, candidates in West Virginia’s special court-ordered election for governor have filled their tanks and are ready to slug it out for the checkered flag.

In the field are six Democrats and eight Republicans.

With several heavyweights in both parties, it’s difficult to say at this stage who has the pole position.

But one thing is certain. Candidates appear to be chomping at the bit to get started and have planned their efforts well in advance of the May 14 primary, a Saturday.

“My family and I have been ready for a year,” House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, said Saturday night, hours after the filing deadline in the secretary of state’s office.

Besides Thompson, other Democratic luminaries are Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, the acting governor ever since Joe Manchin became a U.S. senator, acting Senate President Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, and state Treasurer John Perdue. A little-known Democrat who also paid the $1,500 filing fee is Arne Moltis of South Charleston.

Betty Ireland, a former secretary of state, is one of eight Republicans, who also include state Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, Putnam County Prosecutor Mark Sorsaia, former Berkeley County Delegate Larry Faircloth, Delegate Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, who leads the GOP caucus in the House, and three Monongalia County residents, Cliff Ellis, Ralph William Clark, and Bill Maloney.

Tomblin moved to the governor’s office after Manchin was elected last fall to succeed the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. Acting on two lawsuits, the state Supreme Court called for a special election this year. Lawmakers have approved $8 million to finance both the primary and an Oct. 4 general election.

Two Republican notables decided against running, despite strong encouragement from friends and family.

“I considered it pretty seriously,” said House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha.

For the veteran lawmaker, however, the timing simply is wrong. For one thing, his daughter is a high school senior and he wants to see her through the final term and into college in the fall. With the legislative session ending in mid-March, he said, little time would be allowed to conduct a campaign for an in-depth discussion of the issues. At best, Armstead figures, a legislator couldn’t give 100 percent to the race in such a small window. “I would like to be governor of West Virginia some day,” he said.

For now, however, Armstead said he wants to focus on his duties as minority leader. “When it came right down to it, I can better do my job as minority leader and concentrate on that.”

Steve Harrison, a former Republican senator in Kanawha County, likewise was under some pressure to jump into the race. “A major reason for not running was I had not yet prepared the groundwork necessary to mount the type of strong statewide campaign I would like to run,” he said.

“I have long had an interest in serving my fellow West Virginians in statewide or federal office and believe I have ideas that can help improve our state and nation in the years ahead.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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