Cheat Sheet to 2014 GOP Senate Races: West Virginia

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With primaries over in West Virginia, the two party candidates are looking fairly evenly split, making the state a major toss up in the coming election. This is especially pertinent for Republicans hoping to gain a majority this season, as past senators Joe Manchin (D) and Jay Rockefeller (D) represented two votes for the left. Now, with Shelley Moore Capito (R) looking prepared to give Natalie Tennant (D) a run for her money, The Washington Post calls West Virginia one of the state “pick-up opportunities for Republicans.”

Capito is showing at 48 percent support according to Rasmussen Reports, compared to Tennant’s 39 percent. Nine percent are undecided, and 5 percent are in favor of a different candidate. What makes those numbers seem even closer is the fact that West Virginia, while not overall a solid blue state, tends to give Senate elections to the left. “Republicans have come close to winning a Senate seat in West Virginia only twice in the past half-century: in 1978, when Gov. Arch Moore nearly defeated Sen. Jennings Randolph, and in 1984 when John Raese lost to Gov. Jay Rockefeller by four points,” states Real Clear Politics.

The last Republican senator in West Virginia was John D. Hoblitzell Jr. in 1958, and he wasn’t elected; he was appointed to fill in for a single year after the death of his predecessor. The last elected GOP senator in West Virginia was W. Chapman Revercomb in 1956 for a special election to replace Harley M. Kilgore (D), who died before completing his term. So should Capito manage to maintain on her lead, she’ll be major switch up in political preferences for West Virginia — not a good sign for Democrats who are already struggling to get voters to the poll for midterm elections.

Also notable is that, while West Virginia has never elected a female senator in the past, it can hardly fail to do so this year, as the leading candidates are both women. So, while it’ll be a loss for one side of the aisle, it should be a win in terms of evening the gender disparity in Congress; there are ninety-nine women in Congress, twenty in the Senate and seventy-nine in the House, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.

On the issues, Tennant is somewhat conservative for a Democrat, perhaps even moreso than the fairly conservative Sen. Joe Manchin (D) who worked hard to retain farther right support in his state while pushing the background check bill in Congress. Tennant told MSNBC that had she been in the Senate at that time, she may have been with the four other Democrats who shot the bill down. “You know, I am pro-Second Amendment, and I’m pro-Second Amendment rights … I think states should really be looking at it and how it affects them because it’s not a one size fits all approach, especially for West Virginia because we have tradition, it’s our heritage,” said Tennant. She also stated her support for protective measures in the workplace for gay and lesbian and her support for equal pay for equal work.

Capito on the other hand is considerably more liberal than Tea Partyists in her state, pro-coal, pro-guns, and anti Obamacare. She voted against equal pay, an issue Tennant has been slamming her, but her position is that solutions for equal pay lie elsewhere. “Women absolutely deserve equal pay for equal work — and equal pay is the law. However, there is still a way to go to ensure women are being paid equally for the work they do,” said Captio in a Facebook post, linking to information on recognizing and combating inequality.

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