MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Tuesday followed his Republican opponent, Bill Maloney, on the campaign trail through the Eastern Panhandle in advance of early voting in West Virginia's special gubernatorial election, which begins today at 9 a.m.
Tomblin, 59, and Maloney, 52, who visited the area Friday, are considered the front runners in the Oct. 4 election, which will determine who will serve the unexpired term of former Gov. Joe Manchin.
Manchin, a Democrat, was elected last year to serve the unexpired term of the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who died in June 2010.
Mountain Party candidate Bob Henry Baber, Independent Party candidate Marla Ingels and American Third Position candidate Harry Bertram also are on the ballot along with three certified write-in candidates — John R. "Rick" Bartlett of Kingwood, Phil Hudok of Huttonsville and Donald Lee Underwood of Buffalo, according to Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant's office.
The winner of the special election will serve the 14 months that remain of Manchin's term and is expected to run again in next year's regular election for a full four-year term.
Tomblin, who became acting governor when Manchin resigned to take Byrd's Senate seat, visited Skippers Dips & Deli in Charles Town, W.Va.; the site of the new Hospice of the Panhandle facility planned in Kearneysville, W.Va.; and City Hospital in Martinsburg before rallying with supporters Tuesday night at Democratic Party headquarters in downtown Martinsburg.
Maloney, along with his wife, Sharon, visited Orr's Farm Market west of Martinsburg Friday, and also campaigned Saturday at the Thunder Over the Blue Ridge Air Show.
There currently are 63,612 people registered to vote in Berkeley County. Deputy County Clerk Bonnie Woodfall would only estimate that more voters would turn out at the polls next month than for the special primary in May.
"It's not going to be big," Woodfall said of the anticipated turnout.
Nikki Painter, Woodfall's counterpart in Jefferson County, agreed.
Painter said she wasn't expecting a high turnout among the county's approximately 33,000 registered voters for the election.
Early voting, an opportunity for voters to cast their ballot ahead of Election Day, will continue through Saturday, Oct. 1. In Berkeley and Jefferson counties, early voting will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, including this Saturday, but not Sunday.
The early voting location in Berkeley County is in the county's annex building at 110 W. King St., and voters in Jefferson County can vote early at the county courthouse at 100 E. Washington St.
While it is not required, Woodfall encouraged voters to bring their voter registration card or driver's license to help poll workers more easily verify their registration.
Woodfall said she has heard from voters who think the special election is a waste of the state's money because there will be another election for governor in 2012.