This article originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

June 16, 2008

Legislative campaign spending tops $2.5 million

By Lawrence Messina
The Associated Press

Candidates spent more than $2.5 million on legislative races in this year's primary despite a dearth of contested seats, according to the latest filings posted by the secretary of state's office.

The various contests also left Democrats with a distinct money advantage heading toward November. They held about 80 percent of the $1.28 million in cash balances reported by candidates in post-primary finance filings.

The money edge partly stems from the lack of GOP contenders. Democrats already hold a majority in the Senate and House of Delegates - and they're unopposed for 38 of 100 House seats and three of 17 Senate seats up this year.

A handful of races helped drive up the spending total, led by fights for opening seats in the state Senate.

In the most expensive matchup of the primary, Braxton County business owner Doug Facemire outspent fellow Democrat Doug Stalnaker 2-to-1 in his bid to succeed Sen. Bill Sharpe, D-Lewis. Facemire poured more than $130,400 into his effort before beating Stalnaker, a multiterm delegate. No Republican filed for that 12th District seat.

Insurance, banking, tobacco, health care and gambling interests gave to Stalnaker. Labor unions back Facemire, and oil and gas interests contributed to both.

Another House member seeking to cross over to the Senate was more successful. Delegate Jack Yost, D-Brooke, bested lawyer Shane Mallett in their party's 1st District contest. Mallett had spent $82,800 to Yost's $62,660, making their battle the second-most-costly among legislative candidates.

Yost sported a balance of about $2,100 as of May 25. He faces former Delegate Chris Wakim in November. The Ohio County Republican reported spending no money and raising only $75 by the end of the filing period.

A close Democratic primary race in one of Kanawha County's House districts proved the most expensive for that chamber. House Judiciary Chairwoman Carrie Webster spent more than $73,780 before narrowly staving off a challenge from Meshea Poore.

Poore, a Charleston lawyer, spent about $15,660 and came within 117 votes of toppling Webster in the 31st District. Webster faces no GOP challenger in the fall.

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