Welcome to WV politics
The Mountain State has long been a bastion of the Democratic Party, thanks in no small part to the state’s strong union ties. However, many would argue that West Virginia Democrats tend to be a bit more conservative than their counterparts elsewhere. The state has supported the Republican nominee in the last three presidential elections.
Most statewide and federal offices are held by Democrats, but you’ll find the GOP represented in a couple of seats.
West Virginia has a bicameral legislature, with a 34-member Senate and 100-member House of Delegates. Senators are elected to four-year terms which are staggered, so half the Senate is up for re-election every two years. All 100 House seats are on the ballot every other year.
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals hears appeals from circuit courts and administrative agencies. Its five justices are elected to 12-year terms. They run in partisan elections, although some in the state support going to non-partisan balloting.
A few of the major players in West Virginia politics and government are:
∫ U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd — The longest-serving senator in American history, Byrd was elected in 1958 and has been re-elected eight times. As president pro tempore of the Senate, the 91-year-old Byrd is third in the line of succession for president.
Byrd was appointed to the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee in 1958 and only recently decided to step down as chairman of that committee, from which he steered countless dollars back home to the Mountain State.
The Democratic icon is known for his devotion to the Constitution and famously carries a copy of it with him at all times. He’s also seen his share of controversy, thanks to his past membership in the Ku Klux Klan, for which he has repeatedly apologized. He endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 election.
∫ U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller — Recently sworn in to his fifth term in the Senate, Rockefeller came to the Mountain State in 1964 as a VISTA volunteer in a small coal town. He eventually made West Virginia his home, serving in the House of Delegates and as Secretary of State. In 1976, he was elected governor and served two terms before being elected to the Senate in 1984.
Rockefeller recently became chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. He has forged strong international connections, particularly in the Far East, in an effort to bring international investment to the U.S. and West Virginia.
∫ Gov. Joe Manchin — West Virginia’s 34th governor easily won a second term in the 2008 election. He’s overseen a state budget that is producing surpluses in spite of the current economic turmoil across the nation. When Gov. Bob Wise chose not to run for re-election in 2004, following the revelation of an affair with a staffer, the door was opened for then-Secretary of State Manchin’s run.
The Manchin name is a famous one in West Virginia politics, and the governor’s cousin, Tim, is currently serving in the House of Delegates.
∫ Rep. Shelley Moore Capito — The daughter of former Gov. Arch Moore, Capito is the only woman and only Republican in the Mountain State’s Congressional delegation. In 2008, she was re-elected to a fifth term.
Capito is frequently mentioned as a possible challenger to Byrd or Rockefeller, but thus far she has elected to remain in the House.
Sources: www.wv.gov, www.senate.gov, www.house.gov, Associated Press.
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