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W. Virginia acting-Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin raises fist in victory in Charleston, W.Va., Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011. (AP)

W.Va. Democratic Gov's Narrow Win May Be Ominous Sign For Party

Oct 5, 2011

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Democrats are surely relieved to have held onto the W. Virginia governorship, with Tuesday's special election victory by acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin over Republican Bill Maloney.

But it was a narrow 50 percent to 47 percent win that could portend trouble when Tomblin once again stands for election in 14 months.

Democrats have dominated W. Virginia politics for decades, controlling local and state offices though in presidential elections President Bill Clinton was the last Democrat to win the state in 1996.

W. Virginia's former Democratic governor, Sen. Joe Manchin, won his races in 2004 and 2008 by huge margins of nearly 30 points or more. Tomblin's victory means he will complete the popular Manchin's term.

But Republicans were apparently able to use voter anger at incumbents and President Obama to nearly unseat a long-time Democratic politician who was much better known than his GOP opponent.

The race became something of a proxy war for the national parties as Republicans tried to tie Tomblin to Obama and the Affordable Care Act.

From the wvgazette.com:

State GOP Chairman Mike Stuart said Tuesday's narrow loss proves the Republican Party can make significant gains in upcoming 2012 elections in West Virginia.

He said Maloney had made a good showing, having started the campaign with little name recognition. He was known by 3 percent of voters statewide just months ago, Stuart said.

"For a 36-year incumbent [Tomblin] to be winning by such a narrow margin, it's not exactly a sweeping endorsement for the status quo," Stuart said. "This is a new Republican Party, and this shows we have a two-party system in West Virginia..."

... With no other seriously contested gubernatorial races this year, the RGA and DGA combined to pour nearly $6 million of independent expenditures into the election, far outpacing the candidates' own campaign spending, and turning the race on a national level into a referendum on Obama.

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