W.Va. A Rare Bright Spot For Democrats
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
So Democrats could not hold onto a Senate seat in Indiana, but they could in West Virginia. Voters there elected Democratic Governor Joe Manchin to fill the Senate seat held for more than five decades by the late Robert Byrd. Here's NPR's Brian Naylor.
BRIAN NAYLOR: The West Virginia Senate seat was a firewall for Democrats. Lose it and they risk losing their majority in the Senate. So Governor Joe Manchin was the natural choice to carry Byrd's banner. With a 70 percent approval rating, he seemed like a shoe-in. Republicans nominated businessman John Racy. He had already lost three state-wide races but worked hard to tie Manchin with the not-so-popular President Obama.
Republicans argued that West Virginians could keep Manchin governor and send Racy to Washington to block the Obama agenda. It nearly worked. But Manchin fought to distance himself from the administration. In a TV ad he picked up a rifle and shot a hole in a target labeled cap and trade. He said he would work to reform what he labeled Obamacare. Racy had his own problems, meanwhile, connecting with voters. There was his opposition to the minimum wage in a state with one of the nation's highest poverty levels. And it was pointed out that his wife lived at a Palm Beach mansion with a marble driveway.
When the votes were counted, a race that was once judged a toss-up was won easily by Manchin. At a Charleston hotel ballroom he said Washington could learn much from West Virginia.
Governor JOE MANCHIN (Democrat, West Virginia): We achieved so much as a state, working together. But I can tell you, I'm proud of what we've been able to do. I'm proud of every one of our accomplishments. But when I look at what challenges we have ahead of us in Washington, I know it's time to take that fight there.
(Soundbite of cheering)
NAYLOR: Manchin's win sets off a scramble in West Virginia politics to succeed him as governor. And Manchin himself will have to run again in two years should he decide to seek a full term in the Senate.
Brian Naylor, NPR News, Charleston, West Virginia.
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