Kanawha hosts contested races, but low turnout expected

LAWRENCE PIERCE | Gazette file

With no tightly contested statewide races, and a limited number of contested legislative races, voter turnout is likely to be low for today’s primary elections.

While the Secretary of State’s Office does not make predictions on turnout, according to spokesman Jake Glance, indications point to a typical low off-year election turnout.

Kanawha County may be an exception, with contested House of Delegates races in three of the six districts in the county, accounting for eight House seats.

The most interesting race may be in the 36th District, a three-member district where, on the Democrat side, former state Sen. Larry Rowe will be trying to knock out one of three incumbent Democrats seeking re-election: Delegates Nancy Guthrie, Mark Hunt and Danny Wells.

Also in the 36th, seven Republicans will be vying for three nominations. Six of the seven have never run for public office, while the seventh, Stevie Thaxton, ran in the 2012 primary.

In Charleston’s single-member 37th District, a diverse field is seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat being vacated by Delegate Meshea Poore in her run for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District.

That includes former Charleston City Council member and frequent political candidate Archie Chestnut, advertising executive Brad Heflin, lawyer Richard Lindsay, musician/cab driver Mike Pushkin and longtime Charleston City Councilman Robert Sheets.

In the four-member 35th, three incumbents — Republicans J.B. McCuskey, Eric Nelson and Suzette Raines — are seeking re-election, while the fourth, Delegate Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, is running for state Senate.

A large field of Democratic challengers includes former Delegate Bobbie Hatfield, D-Kanawha, who was defeated in her first run in the new 35th District in 2012, after serving 22 years in the House, as well as perennial Democratic candidate Thornton Cooper.

Polls will be open today from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

More than 4,100 Kanawha County residents cast early ballots prior to today’s primary election, about 1,000 more than voted early in the last off-year election.

Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick said 4,140 voters cast early ballots during the two-week early voting period, which ended Saturday. This year’s election includes a contested school board race and a challenge to incumbent Kanawha County Commissioner Hoppy Shores from George Metz in the Republican primary.

McCormick said 2,443 Democrats and 1,230 Republicans cast early ballots. Independent or nonaffiliated voters cast 461 early ballots, she said, as well as two Libertarians and four Mountain Party members.

There are 135,725 registered voters in Kanawha County, including 68,412 Democrats and 38,060 Republicans. There are 203 registered Libertarians and 200 members of the Mountain Party, McCormick said.

In Putnam County, county officials said 1,183 residents cast early ballots. More than half of those — 661 — were Republicans; 399 were Democrats, and 123 were independents.

In 2010, the last primary in a nonpresidential election year, there were 1,145 early voters.

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said Monday her office will send dozens of liaisons around the state today to assist local election workers with reports of election law violations or other election issues.

Tennant has used statewide liaisons in the past seven elections, dating back to the 2010 primary.

People may also report possible election law violations by calling the Secretary of State’s Office at 304-558-6000 or 866-SOS-VOTE.

Staff writers Rusty Marks and Ryan Quinn contributed to this report.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.

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