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Manchin, Raese, Johnson to vie for Byrd's seat

August 28, 2010
  • John Raese
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From staff and wire reports

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It will be a three-way race for the late Robert C. Byrd's U.S. Senate seat in November as West Virginia voters decided to pit Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin against Republican John Raese and Mountain Party candidate Jesse Johnson.

The three will appear on the Nov. 2 general election ballot following light voter turnout for the special primary prompted by Byrd's death two months ago.

The passing of the 92-year-old Democrat put his seat in play as his party seeks to keep its majority in an election year that appears increasingly favorable to Republicans. November's winner will take over from Sen. Carte Goodwin, a former top Manchin aide and Democrat appointed by the governor for the interim.

In Berkeley County's 66 precincts, Manchin led the Democratic candidates with 1,263 votes, while Ken Hechler garnered 315 votes and Sheirl Fletcher received 192, according to complete, but unofficial returns.

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On the Republican side, Raese led the way with 1,249 votes, with Mac Warner getting 566 votes, Thomas Ressler garnering 302 votes and Kenneth A. Culp receiving 103 votes, according to complete, but unofficial returns. No other GOP candidate received more than 63 votes.

Only 6.85 percent of Berkeley County's registered voters turned out for the special election.

The vote count for the 32 precincts in Jefferson County was finished before 9 p.m.

On the Democratic side, Manchin received 1,015 votes to 346 for Hechler and 159 for Fletcher, according to complete, but unofficial returns.

Raese led the Republicans with 487 votes to 258 for Warner and 179 for Frank Kubic, according to complete, but unofficial returns. No other GOP candidate received more than 40 votes.

Only 7.7 percent of registered voters in Jefferson County cast ballots in the special election.

In Morgan County's 13 precincts, Manchin led the Democratic candidates with 281 votes, with Hechler tallying 68 votes and Fletcher receiving 32 votes, according to complete, but unofficial returns.

On the Republican side, Raese received 357 votes, Warner garnered 100 votes and Ressler got 53 votes, according to complete, but unofficial results. No other GOP candidate received more than 16 votes.

A total of 962 registered voters in Morgan County went to the polls

Saturday's results mark the seventh straight statewide electoral victory for Manchin, who turned 63 on Tuesday. After a term as secretary of state, he was elected governor in 2004. He won re-election with a record-high margin for that office, nearly 70 percent. The state constitution bars him from seeking a third consecutive term.

Manchin bested Fletcher, a former state lawmaker from Monongalia County, and the 95-year-old Hechler. A former congressman and secretary of state, Hechler launched his candidacy for voters to register their opposition to the mountaintop removal method of surface mining.

The governor said the difference was his record of trying to unite people to find ways to improve the state. He said his campaign over the next couple of months will stress that the country needs to be made strong again and put on the right track.

"I'm running for the U.S. Senate to represent all the people," Manchin said. "It's going to be a sprint now and we're prepared."

Manchin had 73 percent of the vote with 92 percent of 1,881 precincts reporting.

Raese emerged from a pack of 10 GOP hopefuls that also included a real estate developer, a cement contractor and a few retirees.

Raese had 71 percent of the vote with 92 percent of 1,881 precincts reporting. The steel, stone and media owner spent at least a half-million dollars of his own funds into his latest effort. He said Saturday that he considered his name recognition and ability to get out his message key to his victory.

"If they don't know ya', they don't vote for ya'," Raese said.

Raese ran against Byrd in 2006 and won about a third of the vote, but noted that this marks his fourth statewide campaign.

"My message has been constant and maybe it didn't resonate in '06, but a conservative businessman today, that resonates," Raese said, adding, "This one is winnable, I can tell you that."

Raese told supporters he would mount an aggressive campaign that would offer "a clear vision and a clear picture of what a liberal has done in West Virginia."

Johnson ran unopposed in the primary for the Mountain Party, which also targets mountaintop removal.

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said the election came off without a hitch, but estimated voter turnout at 20 percent. She originally hoped that 25 percent of West Virginia's registered voters would go to the polls Saturday. She said the last time West Virginia held a Saturday election, voter turnout was 14 percent.

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