Bill Maloney, Morgantown businessman, has been projected the winner of the Republican nomination with 86% of the votes in.
Polling for this race was sparse and dreadfully inaccurate. Second place winner Betty Ireland was projected a few days before the election to be in a tie with Maloney, but as of this point, is down by almost 15% points. Maloney's biggest obstacle was name recognition. He was relatively anonymous insofar as political recognitioon was concerned, but overcame the fact that Ireland had been the only victorious statewide Republican candidate since Governor Underwood in 1996. Back then, Ireland defeated the much more well known Ken Hechler who had held the position before. She did so with a powerful and personal campaign that introduced her to West Virginians as a powerful and decisive figure. As Secretary of State, Ireland succeeded in implementing measures to combat voter fraud and update voting technology.
The race at first seemed to be a referendum on Ireland herself with people deciding whether or not they liked the pugnacious politician. Late in the race, the personalities of Maloney and State Senator Clark Barnes emerged and they picked up support on their own as more than being "not Betty." Others could have gained support, but lacked funds. Mitch Carmichael and Clark Barnes have positioned themselves for future runs at higher office. The name recognition that came from this race was a no-lose proposition for them.
Maloney made an amazing run at the nomination, closing the gap over the past two weeks in polling. Of course a huge discrepancy exists between the final polls and the final numbers. This makes you wonder how accurate they have been all along.
The Maloney campaign must now switch gears and try to appeal to the broad spectrum of West Virginia voters. Many of them see Earl Ray Tomblin as experienced and, most of all, safe. Maloney must convince voters that this most established of establishment candidates represents business as usual. He must convince the state that business as usual cannot work anymore for this state. Eight decades of Democratic domination have led us to see mediocrity as safe instead of unacceptable. Maloney needs to overturn that belief system.
We were disappointed to see so little direct contact with candidates with much of the Eastern Panhandle. This is a large concentration of Republican voters and needed attention. Maloney should try to shore up his base and energize the Republican vote in the Panhandle. He can also make appeals to Democrats and Independents who might be wary of a Southern West Virginia politico running the state.
We were lucky, speaking as a Republican. We had a good slate of experienced candidates, many of whom would have done well as governor. I know that we commented little on this race, but as members of the county executive committee in Mineral, we had to remain publicly neutral. We all must get behind Maloney because he is the only canidate who can rescue West Virginia from mediocrity.