West Virginia’s legislative candidates spent $1.2 million ahead of the May 8 primary, underscoring the relative lack of contested seats on the ballot, their final round of pre-primary campaign finance reports show.
Senate candidates alone had spent more than that during the same point in 2010. As was the case then, all 100 seats in the House of Delegates and half the 34-seat Senate are up this year.
The Kanawha Valley and southern coalfields host some of the more expensive races for both chambers. This year’s $1.2 million figure reflects spending as of April 22. House candidates accounted for just shy of $1 million of the total.
Tuesday’s election is the first to feature legislative districts redrawn in response to the 2010 Census results. The House now has 67 districts, up from 58, and 47 of them are single-member. The rest have at least two seats apiece, with the largest holding five and representing Monongalia County. The 17 new, two-seat Senate districts keep 42 of the 55 counties intact within their boundaries. The remaining counties are separated into two districts except Monongalia and Wayne, which are each split among three.
But just six of the Senate districts attracted enough candidates for contested primary races, and all on the Democratic ballot. Democrats also have contests in 28 of the 67 House districts, while Republicans have them in 15.
The most expensive Senate race has Majority Whip Richard Browning of Wyoming County defending his seat against Delegate Daniel Hall in the 9th District. Also of Wyoming County, Hall spent $60,665. Browning followed with $46,380, but also had nearly $33,000 on hand to Hall’s nearly $10,700 as of April 22. Browning also raised $77,400, the most of any legislative candidate statewide. Hall attracted $39,200 from donors for his challenge, while also loaning his campaign $15,000. The district also includes all of Raleigh County and part of McDowell County.
Sen. Art Kirkendoll spent nearly $20,100 in that chamber’s next-priciest primary matchup, in what is now the 7th District. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin appointed the former veteran Logan County commissioner to the seat he long held until his election as the state’s chief executive last year. Sammy Dalton is challenging Kirkendoll in the Democratic primary, and had spent $1,671. Tuesday’s nominee is assured a win in November, in the absence of a Republican opponent.
Republican Jim Ruland loaned himself the largest amount of any Senate candidate, $25,000. Unopposed in the 16th District’s GOP primary, Ruland is challenging Sen. Herb Snyder in the fall. The Jefferson County Democrat, facing no primary foe, has raised the second-largest amount behind Browning at $74,325 and sported a $57,700 campaign balance.
Kanawha County is home to the most expensive House primary contests for both parties. In its 36th District, Democratic Delegate Nancy Guthrie spent the most of any House candidate from either party at nearly $40,000. The seven Democrats running in this four-seat district have together spent nearly $93,000. Of the others, Delegate Mark Hunt spent $18,415 and former legislator Sharon Spencer, $17,400. Lawyer Bob Johns spent the next-largest amount at $9,600. Johns also loaned his campaign $25,000, the most of any House candidate.
The GOP race for the three seats in the county’s neighboring 35th District saw spending top $55,500, even without available finance reports from three of the 10 candidates.
Suzette Raines, a Republican operative and onetime Planned Parenthood lobbyist, accounted for $27,000 of that spending. Raines also raised the most contributions of any GOP House candidate statewide, receiving $38,749. Lawyer John McCuskey spent $19,000 in the 35th District’s GOP primary, followed by Delegate Eric Nelson at $6,400. Each candidate attracted at least $34,500 from donors.
The nine Democrats running the 35th District together spent nearly $71,000. Delegate Doug Skaff led that pack at $20,483, followed by Delegate Bonnie Brown and Kanawha County assistant prosecutor Fred Giggenbach at around $12,500 each.