House of Delegates candidate Larry L. Rowe said Wednesday he’s not targeting any of the three 36th District incumbents he’s running against in the Democratic primary.
“This is a good, strong delegation,” said Rowe, a former state senator. “Many of my votes would be right with them. As I’ve said over and over, I’m not running against anyone.”
Rowe’s opponents aren’t buying that explanation.
“He says we’ve done a good job, but he wants to knock one of us out,” said Delegate Danny Wells, D-Kanawha, during a meeting with Gazette editors Wednesday. “I think he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth. I don’t understand that.”
Four Democrats are seeking three spots on the November general election ballot. More than 70 percent of 36th District voters are registered as Democrats, so there’s a good chance the Democratic primary victors will win the three House seats in November.
“I wish there were four seats,” said Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha. “Philosophically, Larry and I are two peas in a pod, but we only have three seats, and voters are going to decide that.”
Delegate Mark Hunt, D-Kanawha, said it’s important that longtime delegates from Kanawha County remain in the House.
“The House is a hierarchy built on seniority,” said Hunt, vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “It’s very important to get Kanawha Countians into leadership positions.”
Hunt said Rowe would enter the House as a “freshman delegate,” even though Rowe served eight years in the Senate and three years in the House.
“The people of Kanawha County would be trading [one of] three long-term delegates who have seniority positions for a freshman delegate,” Hunt said.
Rowe took exception to being called a “rookie.”
“I’ve written an awful lot of bills,” he said. “To be a first-timer doesn’t mean I’ll be walking in with first-timer skills. I’ve been very successful as a legislator.”
Rowe said, “Good people shouldn’t have to be sidelined if somebody else is sitting in the seat.”
“I think the Democratic Party makes a big mistake when there’s an assumption that a person who holds office can’t be challenged by a Democrat,” he said.
Rowe, a Malden lawyer, noted he’s the only Democrat in the race who lives in eastern Kanawha County. Hunt resides on Charleston’s West Side, while Wells lives in South Hills, and Guthrie in Kanawha City.
“I’m the only guy who has his hair cut in eastern Kanawha County,” said Rowe. “I don’t live in the city. When you talk about the perception of people they feel unrepresented because there’s nobody from their area in the Legislature.
“They want their legislators to be local and available to them. It does matter to folks.”
The three Democratic incumbents said they’ve helped pump state funds into numerous economic development projects in eastern Kanawha County over the years.
“I think we’ve done a good job representing the eastern end, even though the three of us live in Charleston,” Hunt said.
Hunt said Rowe’s decision to run for the House seat has been difficult on the three incumbents because they all respect Rowe.
“This is very difficult for me,” Hunt said. “It’s a difficult situation. I know Danny [Wells] is having trouble with this.”
Also Wednesday, Rowe said he would have voted against legislation that repealed municipal gun regulations in West Virginia. Guthrie and Wells voted against the bill, which Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed into law last month. Hunt voted for the legislation, saying West Virginia should have uniform gun laws.
West Virginia’s primary election day is May 13.
Reach Eric Eyre at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1240.