CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia voters will decide on Nov. 4 if they’ll shift their historically Democratic state even further right.
The results will show if frustrated voters are willing to lump all Democrats together. Republicans are tying their opponents to President Obama and Democratic leaders in Washington whenever possible.
Obama lost all 55 West Virginia counties and remains unpopular, particularly for energy policies that some fear could further cripple the state’s already hurting coal industry.
The Mountain State will cast ballots for one U.S. Senate seat, three congressional seats, half of the state Senate and the entire House of Delegates. Republicans in the state House are shooting to steal the majority from Democrats, now holding a six-seat lead, for the first time in 85 years.
Here are five races to watch:
The top of the ticket features a critical Senate race, as Republicans push to seize the majority from Democrats.
Retiring Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller is leaving his seat open for the first time since 1985. In a decisive contest, Republican Shelley Moore Capito, a seven-term congresswoman, is favored over West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant.
Capito would be the first Republican senator from West Virginia in about 55 years. Either Capito or Tennant would make history as the state’s first female senator.
Libertarian John Buckley, Mountain Party candidate Bob Henry Baber and Constitution Party hopeful Phil Hudok will be ballot long shots.
Coalfields test for Rahall
Democratic U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall is seeking his 20th term in Congress, and this re-election could be his toughest.
Rahall faces state Sen. Evan Jenkins, who changed from Democrat to Republican to run. Conservative groups are spending millions of dollars on ads for the seat.
The 3rd Congressional District shoots directly through the southern coalfields, an electorate that abhors Obama’s energy stances. The district preferred Mitt Romney by 32 percentage points in 2012.
A liberal outside group is helping Rahall play defense by buying millions in attack ads against Jenkins.
Ex-party operatives compete
Two former party officials will fight over Capito’s 2nd District House seat.
Former state Democratic Party Chairman Nick Casey is battling former Maryland GOP Chairman Alex Mooney for the open slot. Mooney moved to West Virginia last year after also serving as a Maryland state senator.
Like most West Virginia Democrats, Casey is running as a pro-coal moderate. Like most West Virginia Republicans, Mooney is casting Casey as a typical Obama-aligned liberal.
The seat has performed well for Republicans, since it elected Capito for seven terms. But it is also one of few seats nationally where Democrats have some hope of picking up a GOP seat.
Independent Ed Rabel and Libertarian Davy Jones round out the ballot.
Youngest lawmaker ever?
Republican Saira Blair was 17 years old and a week away from graduating high school when she beat GOP state Delegate Larry Kump. Blair, who turned 18 in July, could become the state’s youngest lawmaker with a November win.
The West Virginia University freshman faces Democrat Layne Diehl, a 44-year-old lawyer. House District 59 in the Eastern Panhandle tilts in Republicans’ favor.
Blair’s father, Craig Blair, is a state senator from Berkeley County.
North-central Senate fight
After winning the most expensive primary in the state Senate, Harrison County Democrat Mike Romano is facing Democrat-turned-Republican Mike Queen.
Romano, a Harrison County commissioner with unions and lawyers on his side, spent almost $183,000 in a primary win over Sen. Sam Cann, a more moderate, business-aligned Democrat.
Queen, who served as a Democratic House delegate two decades ago, switched parties in August.
Senate District 12 includes five counties and is anchored in Harrison County. Libertarian Patrick Shawn Smith is also on the ballot.