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Unger cites process in dropping race for Congress

January 27, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- State Sen. John Unger has ended his campaign for West Virginia's 2nd District congressional seat, saying he did not want to take part in an election process that was broken and soured by the "greed of money and tearing people down."

"I'd rather give hope and build people up," Unger, D-Berkeley, said in an interview Saturday, the day after he said he decided to end his campaign for the seat held by Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito "for now."

"We haven't stopped. It's just not now," said Unger, leaving the door open for a future campaign.

Unger, 38, of Martinsburg, announced his bid for Congress on May 31, 2007, at the state Capitol in Charleston, W.Va., with Reps. Alan Mollohan and Nick Rahall and other state Democratic Party officials lending support.

Unger thanked Rahall, Mollohan, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and leaders of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in a prepared statement.

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"All the supporters, I just thank them and appreciate their support," said Unger, who had raised at least $150,000 for his campaign.

The three-term lawmaker and state Senate Transportation & Infrastructure Committee chairman was considered the leading contender to win the Democratic Party's nomination in the May 13 primary election, party chairman Nick Casey said Saturday.

"I'm just kind of surprised," Casey said when contacted about Unger's announcement. "It was not something I had any expectations of."

Kanawha County Democrats Thornton Cooper and Richard A. Robb remain in the 2nd District race, according to West Virginia Secretary of State Betty Ireland's office.

The winner of the Democratic primary is expected to run against Capito, who did not have an opponent in the Republican Party primary as of Saturday.

Capito's seat was one that national Democratic Party leaders had targeted for the election, said Casey, who added that Unger had their support.

While putting his political aspirations on hold, Unger said his travels in the sprawling 18-county congressional district better equipped him to tackle state and regional issues, which he says are more pressing than ever given the faltering national economy.

"It's going to hit West Virginia harder than other states," Unger said, stressing the need for state leaders to "bunker down" and take steps to soften the blow.

Instead of being on the campaign trail for the next 10 months, Unger said he could make better use of his time tackling challenges in the Eastern Panhandle and provide some senior leadership to a tri-county delegation in transition.

Fellow 16th District state Sen. John Yoder, R-Jefferson, decided to run for a judgeship in the 23rd Judicial Circuit instead of seeking another four-year term.

Casey also confirmed Saturday that Del. Locke Wysong, D-Jefferson, has decided not to seek re-election.

"Locke's been a great delegate," Casey said. "We'll very much miss him ..."

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