Democrat Mike Green’s self-described “incredible journey” vaulted him Tuesday into the 9th District Senate seat and dealt incumbent Republican Russ Weeks a crushing defeat in one of West Virginia’s key legislative battles.

Green jumped to an early lead and never fell back, racking up an impressive tally of 11,960 to 9,492, for a percentage victory of 56 to 44 with all precincts in the Raleigh-Wyoming County district unofficially counted.

Ironically, both men, one in victory, the other in defeat, ascribed the outcome to the will of God — perhaps the only realm in which they fully agreed.

“Straight-ticket voting really tore us up,” Weeks lamented on behalf of all Republicans, via his cell phone from the courthouse in Beckley, where he had basked in victory only four years earlier.

Green, sounding a little weary as he departed the courthouse, attributed his success to “a lot of hard work by a lot of good people, and God’s will.”

“It’s really put a lot of faith for me in God,” said Green, whose television ads depicted him with his pastor at a country Baptist church.

“It seemed all along if it wasn’t this, that He had something bigger and better for me.”

Weeks said he had no regrets about losing and wouldn’t have changed how he ran his unsuccessful re-election campaign.

“I fought the good fight,” the conservative Republican lawmaker and pro-life Roman Catholic said, quoting a verse from the New Testament. “It’s God’s will. Thy will be done.”

The lame-duck lawmaker suggested the results would be especially pleasing to both Gov. Joe Manchin and the gambling interests.

“These people going down there are mere rubber stamps for the administration,” he said.

“And we’ll probably have gambling parlors all over the place in Beckley pretty soon. I hope the people of Raleigh County like having casinos on every corner.”

Green is heavily entrenched in the gambling industry and lassoed thousands of dollars from out-of-state greyhound dog breeders — a point on which the Weeks campaign sought mileage.

Money played a key role in his defeat, Weeks said, pointing to the massive sums Green dished out to win the race. Green’s last report showed expenditures of more than $250,000, but failed to show what he had spent since the primary.

“There’s no way I could compete with that kind of money,” he said. “I didn’t want to compete with that kind of money. I wanted to prove that people around here can’t be bought, that it’s not about money, it’s about getting your views to people. Apparently, that’s not what people around here want.”

Weeks, a feisty, independent-style politician who, at times, locked heads with his own Republican leaders, won the seat in 2002 as a virtual unknown with a stunning upset of former Senate Judiciary Chairman Bill Wooton, D-Raleigh.

In that race, Weeks focused heavily on pro-life legislation and blamed Wooton for bottling it up in his committee.

Green, a former Beckley police officer, likewise entered this race as a political neophyte, launching his bid more than 14 months ago.

He cleared the first hurdle in a heated primary battle by holding off two longtime political figures — Wooton, who sought a comeback in politics, and four-term Delegate Sally Susman, D-Raleigh.

Green applauded the “statesmanship” of Wooton for backing him after the primary, but took a veiled slap at Susman.

“Sally was persistent,” Green said. “We had to beat her in the primary and in the general. She worked hard against us.”

Unlike the primary battle that turned ugly down the home stretch with stinging radio ads, Green shied from heavy criticism of Weeks, except to complain that he was “too confrontational” and couldn’t be expected to deliver projects for the district.

In rebuttal, Weeks, once in a debate, led off with a sharp retort about the “confrontational” attitude, looking at Green and announcing, “Thank you for noticing.”

Weeks said he often confronted the establishment — and had no plans to let up, if re-elected — over issues affecting the public. One such matter was Pinecrest Hospital, where the senator took on a former Health and Human Resources secretary with complaints the Beckley-run institution ran afoul of the law and should be investigated over a series of “suspicious deaths.”

That DHHR secretary, Paul Nusbaum, ultimately contributed money to Green’s campaign.

Gambling was a key issue in the primary, with Green’s status as a greyhound dog breeder and former role as a racetrack lobbyist. But the matter surfaced only vaguely in the general election campaign. The two differed on major aspect of a proposed four-county referendum on casino-style gambling — Green wanted to limit such voting to the racetrack counties, while Weeks supported a statewide referendum.

In one of the more expensive legislative battles on record, Green acknowledged spending more than $254,000 for a job that pays a mere $15,000 annually, exclusive of what lawmakers earn in interims sessions. Weeks spent about one-twentieth as much.

Green saluted Weeks for “running a good, clean campaign.”

“He and I worked hard and let the people decide,” he said. “It was an issue-oriented campaign. I commend him for his hard work and the effort he made, and his four years of service.”

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