This article originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

May 11, 2008

$3.2m poured into legislative races

Associated Press Writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A pair of former lawmakers trying to re-enter the Legislature have spent the most among both Senate and House of Delegates candidates heading toward Tuesday's primary election.

Mike Ross had plowed more than $97,654 into his effort, more than any other legislative candidate, when the pre-primary reporting period ended April 27. Unopposed in his party's primary, the Randolph County Democrat seeks a rematch with Republican Sen. Clark Barnes, who unseated him in 2004.

Sally Susman tops the list for House spending at $72,563 as she and nine other Democrats compete for five seats in the 27th District. The veteran Raleigh County politico had left the House in 2006 for an unsuccessful state Senate run. She has also largely self-financed her current bid.

Such races helped push pre-primary spending on legislative races to $1.6 million. The 230 campaigns that had reports posted by Friday had amassed more than $3.2 million as of April 27. About $2.6 million of that was contributed by individuals and political action committees.

The totals belie an election year in which nearly two-thirds of the legislative primary races, for both major parties, are uncontested. But in a half-dozen multi-seat House districts, there are at least twice as many candidates as there are seats. Besides Susman's race, those include the GOP side of the 10th District contest in Wood County, the Democratic race in Logan County's 19th District and Kanawha County's 30th District among the Democrats.

"You have to look at the yard signs. That shows you that there's interest in all levels of races,'' state Democratic Party Chairman Nick Casey noted last week.

The biggest war chests in the House and Senate races remain with their respective leaders. Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin had more than $82,140 on hand, while House Speaker Rick Thompson had $90,070. Tomblin, D-Logan, faces a primary challenger but is unopposed in November. Thompson and Delegate Don Perdue, also D-Wayne, have clear sailing Tuesday but go up against a sole Republican come fall.

And while an array of special interests have contributed to Tomblin and Thompson, battle lines are more clearly drawn in some of the primary's contested races.


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