West Virginia voters have heavy slate of choices Tuesday

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice prepares for a debate with Democratic challenger, Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango, Tuesday Oct. 13. 2020, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Kathy Batten)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia voters have a packed ballot to ponder in Tuesday’s election. In addition to the presidential race between incumbent Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden, in which Trump is widely expected to carry the state handily, voters will decide races for governor and other statewide offices, along with U.S. Senate, U.S. House and the state Senate and House of Delegates. A rundown of the state races and the contenders:


Incumbent Jim Justice, trying to become the first Republican elected to back-to-back terms as governor since Arch Moore a half-century ago, is up against Democrat Ben Salango, a Kanawha County commissioner.

Democratic challenger Ben Salango, the Kanawha County Commissioner, prepares for a debate with West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, in Morgantown, W.Va., Tuesday Oct. 13. 2020. (AP Photo/Kathy Batten)

Justice has firmly aligned himself with President Donald Trump, who carried West Virginia by a whopping 42 percentage points in 2016. Justice won office as a Democrat in 2016, but switched parties at a rally with Trump the following year.

The governor has held weekly news conferences touting the work of his administration in keeping the number of positive coronavirus cases and deaths low compared with other states, though the numbers have risen lately. That has also helped him tamp down early criticism over a light schedule he was keeping.

Salango has continued to press on the governor’s work ethic and says voters must make sure that they view Justice’s performance over his entire term, not the past several months.


Shelley Moore Capito is hoping to become the first West Virginia Republican to be reelected to the U.S. Senate in more than a century. She is seeking her second six-year term and will face Democrat Paula Jean Swearengin.

FILE – In this June 24, 2020 file photo, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., speaks during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee hearing to examine the Federal Communications Commission on Capitol Hill in Washington. Capito has leaned hard on her record leading up to the Nov. 3 election as she tries to become the first West Virginia Republican reelected to the U.S. Senate in more than a century. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

It’s the second time that Capito, the daughter of former West Virginia Gov. Arch Moore, will face another woman for a Senate seat. Capito defeated then-Secretary of State Natalie Tennant in 2014, becoming the first woman elected to a U.S. Senate seat in West Virginia. Capito previously served seven terms in the U.S. House and has been a consistent ally of President Donald Trump.

Swearengin is a progressive Democrat from a coal-mining family. She supports expanding broadband access, Medicare for all and strengthening workers’ rights.

FILE – In this Jan. 27, 2019 file photo, Paula Jean Swearengin poses for a portrait to promote the film “Knock Down the House” at the Salesforce Music Lodge during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Swearengin, a Democrat, is using her stances on progressive issues, her popularity from a role in a Netflix movie and the hard realities of a life spent in the southern West Virginia coalfields to try to snap Republican U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s two-decade streak in political office. (Photo by Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP, File)


With the West Virginia’s dwindling population, this could be the last race for one of the state’s three Republican U.S. House members. Analysts have projected West Virginia will lose one of its congressional seats after the 2020 census. The state has lost population for seven straight years.

Incumbent Republican David McKinley, seeking a sixth term, takes on Democrat Natalie Cline in the 1st District. Cline is a software company employee from Wheeling.

Alex Mooney, who represents the 2nd District, goes after his fourth term in Congress against Democrat Cathy Kunkel, an energy analyst who ran unopposed in the primary.

Rep. Carol Miller of the 3rd District is up against Hilary Turner of Huntington. Miller is seeking a second term.


Republican incumbent Kent Leonhardt, seeking his second term, squares off against Democratic state Sen. Bob Beach.


Democrat Mary Ann Claytor is challenging Republican incumbent auditor JB McCuskey. Claytor is a former auditor’s office employee who lost to McCuskey in 2016.


Republican incumbent Patrick Morrisey takes on labor lawyer Sam Petsonk. Morrisey is seeking a third consecutive term.

Morrisey has overseen several lawsuits against prescription drug manufacturers that have led to multimillion dollar settlements for the state. He also sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, accusing it of knowingly employing pedophiles. The lawsuit is currently before the state Supreme Court.

Petsonk has criticized Morrisey for his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, warning that the loss of the program would be devastating to West Virginians.

As a lawyer, Petsonk has focused on workplace safety, retirement benefits for coal miners and other labor issues. He formerly worked for the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd as a legislative assistant.


Incumbent Mac Warner is up against Democrat Natalie Tennant in a rematch of the 2016 election. Tennant served two terms as secretary of state before losing to Warner four years ago.


West Virginia’s longest-serving state treasurer, John Perdue, is seeking a seventh term. He faces Republican Riley Moore, a former delegate.


Half of the 34 state Senate seats are up for grabs. Two Republicans have no opposition in the general election. Four senators, including three Democrats, did not seek reelection while three Republican incumbents lost in the June primary. Republicans hold a 20-14 majority.

All 100 House seats are on the ballot. A dozen races are uncontested, including 10 involving Republicans. Twenty-one delegates did not seek reelection and seven incumbents lost in the primaries. Republicans hold a 58-41 House majority with one independent.

Republican Delegate John Mandt, who resigned in early October after homophobic messages attributed to him were circulated online, remains on the ballot in a six-candidate race for three seats in House District 16.

In the Senate, Mason County teacher Amy Nichole Grady, who defeated Senate President Mitch Carmichael in the primary, will take on Democrat Bruce Ashworth, a roofing business employee.

Among other races, Republican Sen. Mike Maroney is awaiting trial on charges that he solicited a prostitute. The Marshall County lawmaker easily defeated a primary challenger in June.

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Kassie Simmons
Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at ksimmons@woay.com.