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W. Va. AG known for opposing Obama and Biden policies wins GOP primary for governor

West Virginia voters chose their nominees in primaries with the key posts of governor and a U.S. Senate seat coming open.
Jack Walker/West Virginia Public Broadcasting
West Virginia voters chose their nominees in primaries with the key posts of governor and a U.S. Senate seat coming open.

After acampaign focused on national culture war issues, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey won the state's Republican nomination for governor, according to a race call by The Associated Press.

In a state that voted heavily for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020, Morrisey will start as the frontrunner for the November election. He'll face the one contender in the Democratic primary, Steve Williams, who's in his third term as the mayor of Huntington. Unopposed in the Democratic primary, Williams has been able to wait and focus his efforts on the upcoming general election.

They're seeking to replace Republican Gov. Jim Justice, who has reached his two-term limit on that office.

Meanwhile Justice, according to the AP, won an expected victory in the GOP primary for the nomination to replace Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who is retiring. Justice, owner of a vast array of businesses and son of a coal magnate, is the dominant figure in the state's politics and was endorsed by Trump. As governor, he has helped pass income tax cuts and a near-total ban on abortion.

He'll start as a likely favorite against Democrat Glenn Elliott, the mayor of Wheeling, who the AP called as the winner of that party's primary. With the Democratic Sen. Manchin leaving, the race could be key in determining whether Republicans can take control of the Senate.

In the Republican primary for a U.S. House seat, incumbent Carol Miller has defeated Derrick Evans, according to the AP. Evans served three months in prison on a civil disorder charge for participationin the storming of the U.S. Capitol building Jan. 6, 2021. He was a delegate to the West Virginia House at the time.

The new GOP gubernatorial nominee, Morrisey, was elected attorney general in 2012 and used the office to spearhead lawsuits against federal policies from the Obama and Biden administrations. He recently led other state attorneys general in suing to block rules by the Environmental Protection Agency requiring cuts in emissions from coal and gas-fueled power plants.

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Much of the primary campaign saw the candidates for the GOP nomination competing for who was the more conservative and the biggest Trump supporter. They touted their support for the state's coal industry, backing fossil fuels as still key to the U.S. energy supply as the country transitions to renewable sources. But much of the media campaigning was focused on their opposition to transgender rights.

"Because our candidates don't have a lot, frankly, of policy alternatives they want to talk about, it's easier to play the culture wars game and to gin up fear," said Marybeth Beller, associate professor of political science at West Virginia's Marshall University.

Though he grew up in New Jersey and moved to West Virginia in 2006, Morrisey beat contenders with deeper ties to the state's political establishment. Moore Capito, a former delegate to the West Virginia Legislature, was on track to come in second. He is the son of U.S. Sen. Shelley Capito and grandson of late Gov. Arch Moore. He was backed by Gov. Justice.

Another contender was auto dealership owner Chris Miller, who's mother is U.S. Rep. Carol Miller. The other candidate was current Secretary of State Mac Warner.


Randy Yohe covers state government for West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2024 West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Randy Yohe
[Copyright 2024 West Virginia Public Broadcasting]