This article originally provided by The Williamson Daily News

May 7, 2006

Phil Kabler

Legislative races rake in $3.2 million as primary draws near

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Legislative candidates had amassed more than $3.2 million and spent just over half that heading into Tuesday's primary election, their latest reports to Secretary of State Betty Ireland show.

More than $690,000 of the receipts counted during the filing period ending April 21 were loans from candidates to their own campaigns.

The priciest contest is in Raleigh County, where three Democrats seek to challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Russ Weeks. Greyhound breeder Mike Green amassed nearly $200,000, lending himself $164,000 of the total, and had $10,619 left. Delegate Sally Susman had spent $120,378 after raising $134,575 mostly through loans and contributions from herself. Lawyer Bill Wooton, whom Weeks defeated for the seat in 2002, had raised $98,218 and spent $76,313.

The most expensive House race is in Ohio County, where three Democrats and as many Republicans have together raised more than $60,000 and spent more than $30,000 for each of the 3rd District's two seats.

Incumbent Delegate Gil White had raised the most among the 3rd's GOP candidates, $31,091, while state GOP Treasurer Scott Reed has spent the most, $6,377. Among the Democrats, Orphy Klempa has raised $40,674 and spent $31,397. A preprimary report from Democrat Tal Hutchins, a former House member, had not been posted by the Secretary of State's office as of Friday.

Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, continues to lead the more than 280 legislative candidates this year in fund raising. A developer, McCabe had collected $138,739 while spending $18,795. His primary challenger, South Charleston lawyer Thornton Cooper, had amassed $11,779, mostly from personal funds and spent $5,355. The nominee will face former Delegate Ann Calvert, who has no GOP primary opponent. She raised $3,852 and spent $1,009.

Democrat Alex Shook of Monongalia County has raised the most among House candidates, more than $41,000, as he runs in the four-seat 44th District. Cabell County Democrat Doug Reynolds, meanwhile, had spent the most, $36,987. Reynolds seeks one of three seats in the 16th District.

State Farm has had perhaps the most generous political action committee this year, giving at least $23,500 to more than 50 candidates. Most recipients were incumbents, of both parties. Lawmakers last year outlawed a particular kind of lawsuit targeting insurers and made other changes to insurance laws sought by the industry.

The Bankers' PAC, meanwhile, has given at least $21,000 to more than 50 candidates. Other major PAC donors include those for Coca-Coal and the state's trial lawyers association, which each gave to more than 25 candidates.

Summersville businessman William T. Bright has been among the more prolific individual donors, spreading out more than $7,000 among at least 26 candidates. John Raese, the Morgantown multimillionaire and U.S. Senate GOP candidate, has given at least $5,000 to 15 campaigns.

Vowing to influence this year's legislative elections, Don Blankenship is expected to throw serious money into general election campaigns in the summer and fall. The Massey Energy Co. chairman, president and CEO has already given $1,000 each to five candidates.

The benefactors, all Republicans, are: Senate candidates Mark Plants and Ann Calvert of Kanawha County and Jerry Mays of Berkeley County; and House candidates Brian Louk of Monongalia County and Troy Andes of Putnam County.

Several members of Blankenship's family also gave to Andes, as did Blankenship aide and GOP political operative Greg Thomas.


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