While there were no big surprises in Tuesday’s primary election in West Virginia, we certainly learned alot about our state (and its voters). Here are five winners and losers from the 2016 primary election in West Virginia.
1. Winner: The Outsiders
It was the year of outsiders in West Virginia. With big wins by Donald Trump (more below), Bernie Sanders and Jim Justice, voters in West Virginia sent a resounding rebuke to both the Washington and Charleston establishments. In his victory speech at the Greenbrier Resort, businessman and now Democratic nominee for Governor Justice made being an outsider a main message of his campaign. “I’m not a politician. I’m a business guy that loves our state and loves you,” he said. “Do you want a politician or do you want someone who can really make it happen?” He’ll face the state senate’s President Republican Bill Cole in November, whom he’s painting as a career politician.
2. Winner: Donald Trump
There was little doubt that Trump would win here in the Mountain State. He took home an astounding 77% of the vote here, his largest margin of victory anywhere to date. But the surprise win for Trump came in the Democratic Primary. A full 33% of Democratic voters polled said they would vote for Trump over Hillary Clinton if they are the nominees in the fall. Wow.
3. Winner—The Voters
Because of the extended contest for president and a number of locally contested races, West Virginia saw a record number of early voters. The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that over 100,000 people voted early, “a number that dwarfs any other primary election in the 14-year history of West Virginia’s early voting program.” And while we don’t yet have the final tally of total voters yesterday, media outlets reported voters standing in line for up to an hour after polls closed on Tuesday.
4. Loser: Civil Discourse
Despite the enthusiasm of voters, this election season has marked a new low for civil discourse in politics. In early May Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, actually told West Virginians to stay home on primary election day. “Forget this one, the primary’s done,” Trump told a crowd in Charleston. State Sen. Mitch Carmichael (R), who represents parts of Jackson, Mason, Putnam and Roane counties, sent radio stations a “cease and desist” letter after they aired an attack ad that tried to link him to a man convicted of sexually abusing children. But all that pales in comparison to what happened in the coal fields. On Tuesday night in Logan, state senate candidate Richard Ojeda was still recovering from a brutal attack he claims was politically motivated. His opponent denied any part and condemned the violence. Maybe one day we’ll have an election based on issues
5. Loser: A Nonpartisan Supreme Court
One of the first pieces of legislation taken up by the newly Republican-controlled legislature last year made all judicial elections non-partisan. But the contest for the state’s highest court was anything but non-partisan. The winner, Beth Walker, has long been championed by state Republicans. The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that outside groups even poured over $3 million into the race against the two Democrats running: former justice and longtime attorney general Darrell McGraw and former legislator Bill Wooton. If the purpose of non-partisan election of judges was to remove politics and money from judicial races, then it failed terribly.