The Democrat Tomblin and the Republican Maloney won their party’s respective nominations Saturday, and will join Mountain Party candidate Bob Henry Baber on the Oct. 4 special general election ballot. Baber was selected as his party’s nominee by convention earlier this month.
Tomblin, D-Logan, also is the current president of the West Virginia Senate. He was the top vote-getter among six candidates on the Democratic ballot, including many other top state officials.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting unofficial results across the state, Tomblin received 51,083 votes; House Speaker Rick Thompson, 30,449; Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, 21,890; Treasurer John Perdue, 15,874; acting Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, 6,714; and South Charleston businessman Arne Moltis, 482.
Tomblin campaigned much in the Northern Panhandle in recent weeks and ran strong against Kessler in the area.
“Obviously, it’s a long way from Charleston, but we’ve built a lot of friendships there through the years,” Tomblin said of the region. “And if there’s any way I can be of assistance ... I want the people to know I am here and I am for them.
“I certainly do appreciate the support I got from the Northern Panhandle. I spent a lot of time campaigning there. I look forward to working with officials there to see what we can do to create jobs.”
Tomblin told supporters Saturday night, “We are halfway home.”
“What we need to focus on right now is simple—we need to create jobs and keep the tax burden on our citizens low,” he commented. “If we stay focused on these two goals, we will continue West Virginias progress.”
Tomblin added that the state “is poised for greatness.”
“West Virginia has an improving economy and a stable tax system,” he said. “We have a budget surplus—one of just four states in the entire country.
“Other states have laid off employees—but not West Virginia. And that makes me very proud of our state.”
He acknowledged the campaign “has not always been easy” but noted he has “the utmost respect for those who ran for the Democratic nomination.”
Kessler received the most votes in five of the six Northern Panhandle counties, winning by especially large numbers in his home Marshall County and in Ohio County.
Kessler said Saturday night he appreciated the support of local residents in his first run for a statewide office.
“Money talks, B.S. walks,” Kessler said. “I found out I have to have more money. After starting late, it put me behind the eight ball.”
He noted he was “not in bad company” and that many other noted state politicians lost their first statewide runs.
Kessler pointed out that current U.S. Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, both D-W.Va., and former Gov. Cecil Underwood all lost in their initial runs.
“I’m in tall company in losing this race,” Kessler said. “It takes a lot of time, energy and mostly money—and that’s something I wasn’t able to capitalize on fast enough.”
Kessler noted he will “reassess” and determine later whether he will make another try at running for statewide office.
Maloney upset former Secretary of State Betty Ireland and won among eight candidates on the GOP ballot.
He received 27,527 votes; Ireland, 18,863; state Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, 5,851; Putnam County Prosecutor Mark Sorsaia, 2,957; former Delegate Larry Faircloth, 2,377; Delegate Mitch Carmichael, 2,064; West Virginia University professor Ralph William Clark, 1,148; and Cliff Ellis, the former mayor of Westover, W.Va., 277.
“Today, thousands of Republicans and Independents cast their vote for conservative values, real-world experience and a fresh approach to the challenges facing our state. I am humbled and grateful to be their nominee,” Maloney told supporters in Morgantown Saturday night.
“I’ve never run for office before, but I decided I could no longer sit on the sidelines and watch as the state I love so much headed down the wrong path. My passion for West Virginia and her future got me into the race. Along the way, I saw that same passion from the voters I met on the campaign trail. We all want a better future for our state.”
Maloney said for too long, West Virginia has “been ruled by career politicians more interested in the ballot box than in the responsibilities of leadership.”
“They’ve swapped one political office for another, with nothing to show but their own ambition,” he said. “Career politicians like Earl Ray Tomblin have damaged this state and West Virginia has paid the price.
“It’s time for us—the people of West Virginia—to fix what the politicians have broken. It’s time for us to take back West Virginia. Our campaign has shown what it can do in the few short months of this primary. We’re going to show the voters even more in the general election.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. the former governor of the state, resigned Nov. 15 to take the Senate seat previously occupied by the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. Tomblin has served as acting governor since that time.
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year that special primary and general elections for governor must take place in 2011 and that the next governor must be seated one year to the day after Manchin’s resignation.
The unexpired term of governor concludes in late January 2013. The governor candidate elected this year may run for election to a full, four-year term in 2012 but would be term limited in 2016.
Earl Ray Tomblin