The 2020 election is still more than a year away, but already there is significant interest in a state House of Delegates seat representing Mercer and Raleigh counties.

All of the interest and competition so far is in the House District 27 race on the Republican side of the ticket. No Democrats have announced their candidacy yet to this newspaper, but we expect to see at least three Democratic candidates emerge in the months ahead, as the delegate district includes three seats.

The three current incumbents serving in District 27 are Del. Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, Del. Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer, and Del. John Shott, R-Mercer.

Shott announced earlier this year that he is retiring and won’t seek re-election next year. Porterfield, who is expected to seek re-election, stirred up controversy earlier this year when he referred to members of the LGBTQ community as “modern era KKK” and “brutal monsters.”

Former Del. Marty Gearheart, a Republican, announced in early September that he is seeking the Republican nomination for the District 27 race.

Gearheart represented the 27th District from 2013 to 2018 but opted not to seek re-election at that time. He instead made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. House 3rd District seat. Carol Miller won the GOP primary and went on to win the West Virginia seat.

Doug Smith, a Republican and a retired U.S. Army colonel, announced last week that he, too, would be seeking the GOP nomination for one of the three District 27 seats. Smith’s military career spans 34 years as a military police officer while serving in Korea, Central America, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Iraq and across the United States. Smith said he retired from the Army during the summer of 2018. He has never run for public office.

It’s good to see that there is a lot of early interest in the House District 27 race.

Having strong leaders, and an effective voice for Mercer and Raleigh counties in Charleston, is critical to our region’s future.

The House District 27 race may be one to watch come November 2020.

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