Races abound in W.Va. primary

  • West Virginia's primary election will be held May 11. Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. --Ballot similarities in the primary election in Berkeley and Jefferson counties extend beyond the state Senate race between incumbent John R. Unger II and Patrick H. "Pat" Murphy.

In both counties, voters will determine the outcome of contested races for school board and county commission (to be renamed county council in Berkeley County in 2011), but little else.

Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Sample ballots are on the Berkeley County Commission's website at and on the Jefferson County Clerk's website at

Voters who are not affiliated with a political party must request a Democratic or Republican ballot, or only receive a nonpartisan ballot for the board of education races.

Voters in the Democratic Party's primary in most of Berkeley and all of Jefferson County will decide whether to send Unger, 41, back to Charleston, W.Va., for four more years or replace him with Murphy, 62.


The primary winner will face Republican Del. Craig Blair in the Nov. 2 general election. Blair has no opposition in the Republican primary.

In Berkeley County, 12 candidates (seven Republicans, five Democrats) are vying for three seats on the new five-member Berkeley County Council (formerly the Berkeley County Commission).

Both political parties on Tuesday will nominate three candidates for the Nov. 2 general election. To advance in contested races, all nominees must have the highest vote total in the magisterial district in which they are running. For Republicans, the threshold to win in their primary is even higher because there are county council candidates running in four districts, not three.

Republican incumbent Ronald K. Collins, for example, must not only receive the most votes among three candidates in the Valley magisterial district, but also receive more votes than the leading candidate in at least one of the other three districts. Collins' opponents in the Valley District are Doug Copenhaver and Dan Dulyea.

The other district race in the Republican primary is between Elaine Mauck and Eric Carper in Adam-Stephen. Phil Martin in the Potomac district and James "Jim" Whitacre in Shenandoah have no district opponents, but still must receive enough votes to finish among the top three district winners to advance to the general election.

In the Democratic Party's primary for county council, only three districts are in play, and William "Bill" Norris is running unopposed in the Shenandoah district. Voters still must decide races in the Adam Stephen District between Klaus Heitmann and Bonn "Buzz" Poland, and must choose between Valley District candidates Matthew Barney and Ken Mattson.

The field of candidates for Berkeley County Board for Education is nearly as crowded as that for county council. Ten candidates are vying for three, four-year terms and one unexpired term. Incumbents Richard "Rick" Pill and Todd M. Beckwith are seeking re-election. Challenging them are Pam Brush, Eric Gates, Darin Gilpin, Ron Gray, Andrew Michael, Bucky Strauch, Art Thomm and David L. Woods.

Brush, Thomm and Gilpin are from the Tuscarora District; Beckwith is from the Norborne District; Strauch is from the Adam-Stephen District; Michael and Woods are from the Valley District; and Gates, Gray and Pill are from the Potomac District.

The candidates with the top three vote totals will be elected to full terms. No more than two board members can be elected from the same magisterial district.

In Jefferson County, three candidates are seeking to be the Democratic Party's nominee in the Shepherdstown district of the Jefferson County Commission.

Incumbent Jim Surkamp is vying for a second, six-year term against Ruth A. McQuade and Paul G. Taylor. The winner advances to the general election, where he or she will face Republican Walt Pellish, who has no opponent in the primary.

For Jefferson County school board, five candidates, including incumbents Pete Dougherty, Mariland Dunn Lee and Scott Sudduth, are running for three seats. Challenging them are Laurie M. Ogden and Karan Townsend.

Only one West Virginia House of Delegates race is contested in the primary -- the 57th District. Incumbent John Doyle is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Lori Rea, while Elliot Simon and Donny Jones are facing off in the Republican primary.

In Morgan County, voters countywide face key decisions for county commission and board of education.

Three Democratic county commission candidates -- Todd Farris, Tony Lynch and Barbara Tutor -- will be reduced to one following Tuesday's voting. That person will face Republican Bradley Close, who is running unopposed, in the general election.

In the Morgan County Board of Education race, incumbent Eric Kidwell and newcomers Tim Seims, John Westerfeld and Jennifer Wolfe are running in District 1, while David Ambrose and Aaron Close are running in District 3 and Sheila Vinson is running unopposed in District 2.

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