Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who was elected to his first four-year term as governor, thanks his supporters late Tuesday night at the Charleston Marriott.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As Yogi Berra might say, the race for governor was déjà vu all over again -- including the outcome.
A rematch of the special election held just 13 months prior, the race featured the same key players -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin versus Republican challenger Bill Maloney -- and nearly identical campaign themes and issues.
Again, Maloney put up a tough challenge, with Tomblin pulling out a five-point margin of victory, 51 percent to 46 percent, after winning the 2011 special election by 2 1/2 points.
In his victory speech, Tomblin thanked his supporters for helping him win his fourth campaign in 18 months -- which he joked allowed him to visit cities and towns across the state, "again and again and again."
"Thanks to the help from all of you, I have the great fortune and honor to be your governor for four more years," Tomblin said at about 10:45 p.m., drawing cheers from the crowd.
He also asked for a moment of silence for victims of the June derecho and superstorm Sandy.
"I've heard so many stories about people helping people," he said of the storm recovery efforts. "That dedication to helping other people is one of the reasons why I love my home state and its people so much."
In the next four years, Tomblin said he would continue to work with business and labor, Democrats and Republicans to move the state forward.
"I truly believe our state is poised for greatness, and I'm proud to have played a part in getting it to this point," he said.
During the campaign, Tomblin again touted his steady leadership that over the past two decades, from his service as Senate finance chairman and as the longest-serving Senate president, as well as a total of two years in the governor's office, for putting state government on sound financial footing.
In that tenure, Tomblin stressed that the state had paid off debts, both short and long term, and had banked $880 million into Rainy Day funds while cutting taxes and making the state more attractive for business investment.
Maloney, a Morgantown businessman who made his wealth with a company that drills shafts for coal mines and natural gas wells, again argued that the state is losing jobs, lags in education and health care, and is not business-friendly.
In a concession speech in Morgantown, Maloney told supporters it's time to come together to work for a better state.
During the campaign, Maloney portrayed Tomblin as a career politician, and repeatedly tried to link Tomblin's policies to those of President Obama.
In the lone televised debate of the general election, Maloney portrayed an energy portfolio bill Tomblin had voted for but not sponsored as being "cap-and-trade" legislation, linking it to what Maloney portrayed as the president's "war on coal."
That debate was also notable for excluding the Mountain Party candidate for governor, Jesse Johnson, despite his assertions that, under state election law, he represents a bona fide third major party.
Johnson drew about 3 percent of the vote Tuesday.
One notable difference between the 2011 and 2012 races: a significant drop in attack ads financed by the political action arms of the Republican Governors Association and the Democratic Governors Association.
In 2011, the two PACs combined to spend nearly $6 million -- including $3.4 million spent by the RGA in attack ads aimed at Tomblin.
Many of those RGA spots made issue of the greyhound breeding business operated by Tomblin's mother and brother, with claims that Tomblin had backed legislation that "directed" purse funds to the family -- an allegation that was barely mentioned in the rematch.
This time, the RGA spending was under $1 million, while the DGA-backed PAC spent just over $365,000 on the race.
Perhaps because of the ad blitz, polls going into the 2011 special election showed the race to be a statistical dead heat. This year, no national firms did polling of the governor's race, and the lone statewide poll, conducted in August, showed Tomblin with a sizeable advantage.
In 2011, Tomblin won the special election by a margin of about 7,500 votes, bolstered by lopsided margins of victory in southern coalfield counties, including his home county of Logan.
Reach Phil Kabler at email@example.com or 304-348-1220.