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Published: Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Page: 4A

BILLIONAIRE JIM Justice — this newspaper’s 2009 West Virginian of the Year — is taking his first plunge into politics. He chose the Democratic Party instead of his former Republican Party.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., continues to be a national figure in Washington, attempting to heal damaging ideological gridlock.

Former state Democratic Chairman Nick Casey of Charleston is pondering another attempt to regain the Second District congressional seat for Democrats.

Among 11 statewide elective offices, eight - governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, agriculture commissioner and three Supreme Court justice seats - are held by Democrats.

Latest figures show that West Virginia Democrats retain a large margin. Of 1.2 million registered voters, 588,964 are Democrats, 349,787 are Republicans, 235,437 are independents and nearly 30,000 are "other.

All these factors indicate that the Democratic Party has solid power in the Mountain State, and easily could triumph in next year's elections - reversing the huge GOP takeover that occurred last year.

Several national pundits have written off West Virginia as a sinking "red state, forever consigned to Republican ranks. But they may reconsider this verdict as the 2016 battle intensifies.

Barely more than one-third of West Virginians bothered to vote in the 2014 election. Perhaps the low turnout occurred because most past Democratic nominees offered little to entice voters to the polls. Many nominees have been stale retreads who hardly supported the party's people-helping platform.

We're eager to hear 2016 political plans from other outstanding figures. Plenty of time remains before the January filing period. More fresh leaders may emerge. It's encouraging that dynamic leadership is stirring in West Virginia's Democratic Party.

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