Capito, Rockefeller winning

November 05, 2008

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginians gave Jay Rockefeller a fifth term in the U.S. Senate despite a spirited challenge from a Republican businessman.

Rockefeller was part of a clean sweep of incumbents in the state's congressional delegation, including Republican U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who hung on in the face of big Democratic gains across the country.

In the closely contested 2nd District, four-term incumbent Capito held off against Anne Barth, a former longtime aide to Sen. Robert C. Byrd. With 73 percent of precincts reporting, Capito had nearly 56 percent of the vote, close to her total of 57 percent two years ago.

Like Democrats from Barack Obama on down the ticket, Barth sought to link her opponent to the unpopular presidency of George W. Bush. Capito billed herself as "an independent voice for West Virginia" and argued diversity within a state's congressional delegation helps its citizens.


"The voters have said today that they trust me and they believe we need diversity in our delegation," Capito said.

Facing the prospect of remaining the minority party in Congress, Capito is still optimistic about helping pass economic stimulus legislation and working on a comprehensive national energy policy.

In the Senate race, Harrison County challenger Jay Wolfe hoped to capitalize on Democrats dissatisfied with Rockefeller's early endorsement of Barack Obama in the state's primary.

Ultimately, though, voters remained loyal to the former governor and secretary of state, who serves as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"The voters were simply saying they felt comfortable with me, and that they know I look upon them as family, and I really do," Rockefeller said. "They know I work hard for them, and my constant pressure is to work harder."

With the prospect of Democratic gains in the Senate, Rockefeller said his first priority will be a bill expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides health coverage to children not eligible for Medicaid.

Rahall cruised to a win over Marty Gearheart, a Bluefield businessman.

Reached by phone in Beckley on Tuesday night, Rahall predicted significant Democratic majorities in the U.S. House and Senate but said Democrats planned to "govern from the middle."

"We won't try to ramrod an agenda down anyone's throats, as has been done to us in the past," said Rahall, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

The calls were based on an analysis of voter interviews, conducted for The Associated Press by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.

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