2020 West Virginia Primary Election Results

West Virginia held its primary elections yesterday. The results are unofficial at this time until the canvas is complete next Wednesday by the Secretary of State. Some results were expected, some results were unexpected, and some results were downright shocking. Ten incumbent Republican lawmakers lost to fellow Republicans. Three of those losses were in the State Senate, with seven losses occurring in the House of Delegates. Seven Republican Senators won their primaries and 52 House Republicans won their primaries. None of the 13 Democratic incumbents in the House and Senate were defeated.

A. Governor’s Race

As expected, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice cruised to a primary victory over former Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher. Justice spent $1,500,000 of his own money and Thrasher spent $3,00,000 while only garnering 18 percent of the vote. Justice will face Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango. Salango defeated Stephen Smith, a progressive in the mold of Bernie Sanders, by just a few percentage points. Salango is U.S. Senator Joe Manchin’s preferred candidate. Ironically, Manchin played a significant role in getting Governor Justice to enter politics and become Governor, before Justice switched from the Democratic to Republican party.

B. State Senate

The biggest news of the night came from the 4th Senatorial District. Amy Nichole Grady defeated Senate President Mitch Carmichael in the GOP primary. Carmichael has been a member of the West Virginia Legislature since 2000 when he was elected to the House of Delegates. He was elected to the State Senate in 2012, serving as Majority Leader from 2015 to 2017. In 2017, he became Senate President. He remains Senate President and Lieutenant Governor until his current term ends in January of 2021.

Grady is a public school teacher. Carmichael has feuded with the teachers’ unions the last several sessions over issues like teacher pay and charter schools. Although Grady was endorsed by several labor groups, they weren’t particularly excited about her campaign because she supports charter schools and opposed the last statewide teachers’ strike. The last time a sitting Senate President lost was in 1994 when Frank Deem defeated Keith Burdette. However, that was in the general election. It’s incredibly unique to see a sitting Senate President lose in a primary election.

Elsewhere in the Senate, incumbent Republican Senator Sue Cline lost to David “Bugs” Stover, a labor-backed Republican. Republican Robert Karnes bested incumbent John Pitsenbarger, who was appointed to fill the seat in 2019.

C. House of Delegates

The House of Delegates saw several Republican incumbents lose. Appointed GOP member Chuck Little lost to D. “Shannon” Kimes. N. Riley Keaton bested incumbent Martin “Rick” Atkinson in the GOP primary. Jonathan Adam Pinson led the ticket in the 13th District, which left incumbent Scott Cadle out of the mix in the 2-member GOP primary race. Controversial GOP incumbent Delegate Eric Porterfield came in last in a 3-member district which had 5 people running. George A. Miller defeated incumbent former GOP Majority Leader Daryl Cowles. Pharmacist and Republican Ken Reed ousted incumbent Larry Kump.

D. Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

West Virginia had a unique opportunity this year to elect a majority on the state’s highest court, or 3 of its 5 members. In Division 1, Chief Justice Tim Armstead defeated former Justice Richard Neely in a 3-way race with Marshall County Circuit Court Judge David Hummel coming in third. Former State Senator Bill Wooton narrowly defeated Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Joana Tabit in Division 2 which had four candidates. Putnam County Prosecutor Kris Raynes came in third in that race. And in Division 3, current Justice John Hutchison held on over Lora Dyer and Bill Schwartz.

E. Conclusion

In summary, Governor Justice will be the favorite to be re-elected Governor in November, but Salango will put up a fight. Chief Justice Armstead’s State Supreme Court victory gives the court a conservative majority. The State Senate will go through substantial changes in leadership with the defeat of Senate President Carmichael. The House of Delegates leadership team should look similar to what it is now pending any November surprises.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Best regards,

Will Swann

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