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BLANKENSHIP EFFORT FOR GOP LARGELY FAILS UNCONTESTED SEATS, 5C


Publication: THE CHARLESTON GAZETTE
Published: Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Page: 1C
Byline: LAWRENCE MESSINA THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


Voters on Tuesday kept Democrats in charge of West Virginia's Legislature, largely ignoring a coal executive's multimillion-dollar campaign to sweep Republicans into office.


At least 31 House Democrats targeted by Massey Energy Co. Chief Executive Don Blankenship survived their races, while 27 of the GOP challengers he aided fell short.


An ailing Delegate Margarette Leach, D-Cabell, appeared to be the only incumbent Democrat to fall as her party kept its majority in the House of Delegates. Leach was on Blankenship's hit list, with Republican Carol Miller taking her place in the 15th House District.


Democrat Doug Reynolds picked up a seat in the neighboring 16th District, displacing Delegate Greg Howard, R-Cabell. Democrat Stan Shaver regained the 46th District seat he lost to Delegate Debbie Stevens, R-Tucker, in 2004, defeating her 54 percent to 46 percent.


Sen. Russ Weeks, R-Raleigh, lost to greyhound breeder and former police officer Mike Green. With all 95 precincts reporting, Green had 56 percent of the vote to Weeks' 44 percent.


With all 100 seats in the House of Delegates on the ballot, 11 seats were open thanks to departing lawmakers. Democrats held on to the Raleigh County seats of outgoing House Speaker Bob Kiss and of Delegate Sally Susman, who lost her primary bid for a Senate seat. Newcomers Ricky Moye and Mel Kessler joined incumbent Democrats Ron Thompson and Virginia Mahan and GOP Delegate Linda Sumner in the 27th House District delegation.


With most districts reporting, 17 Republican and 46 Democratic incumbents won re-election. Democrats picked up six open House seats, while the GOP secured two.


Half of the 34 seats in the Senate were up with Democrats holding 21. Six GOP-held seats were on the ballot.


Dr. Ron Stollings kept the 7th Senate District in Democratic hands, defeating Republican Larry Lyon, 76 percent to 23 percent.


The GOP sought to keep open seats in Putnam and Tucker counties. Democrats faced a tough challenge in the 11th District, after a television station aired nude photos of incumbent Sen. Randy White, D-Webster. With 79 percent of the precincts reporting, White led the GOP's Pete Sigler 52 percent to 48 percent.


Uncontested races guaranteed the Republicans one Senate seat and the Democrats four. In the House, 18 Democrats and seven Republicans were unopposed.


The big variable became the campaign funded by Blankenship. As of Friday, Blankenship had poured $2.04 million into a statewide effort to wrest the House from the Democrats.


Blankenship's campaign, dubbed "And For the Sake Of the Kids," focused on a handful of issues - including parental notification of abortions for minors, opposition to same-sex marriage and abolition of the state's 5 percent food tax - and alleged that Democrats failed to reflect the will of average West Virginians.


Blankenship also contributed nearly $100,000 to both House and Senate candidates.

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