MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Democrats in Berkeley County are still working to recruit candidates for a number of vacancies on the May 8 primary ballot.
The Berkeley County Democratic Executive Committee has until Feb. 10 to appoint someone to fill a vacancy, and committee Chairman Niles Bernick can appoint someone as late as Feb. 14, according to Secretary of State Natalie Tennant’s office.
“We’re working on it,” Bernick said when asked if the party would field a candidate for the 15th District seat in the state Senate.
Republican Craig Blair, who served in the House of Delegates for eight years, currently is running unopposed for the seat, according to Tennant’s office.
Also running unopposed in state legislative races in Berkeley County are House freshmen Republicans Eric Householder and Larry Kump, and the longest-serving delegate in the 100-member House, Republican John Overington.
Democrats also failed to field a candidate in the 60th House District, where two Republicans are vying for the GOP nomination to replace Del. Jonathan Miller, R-Berkeley, who is making a bid for the U.S. House seat held by Shelley Moore Capito.
The executive committee is scheduled to meet this week, and committee Vice Chairman Bill Yearout said at least one candidate, if not more, might be appointed.
While acknowledging more Republicans have filed for various elected offices in Berkeley County than Democrats, Yearout said he sees the vacancies as evidence of more of a “public service crisis.”
With few exceptions, “there aren’t younger people jumping in the process to climb the ladder,” Yearout said of the lack of candidates for House seats. “That’s happening on both sides.”
While Republicans have won the majority of elected offices in Berkeley County in recent elections, Yearout said he doesn’t think the county is a GOP “stronghold.”
Yearout said he believes many Democrats are overestimating the support that Republicans are receiving at the polls and suggests both parties have a “weakhold” in Berkeley County.
Democratic candidates have filed for all three state House seats and the state Senate in neighboring Jefferson County. But a full slate of Republicans who have filed to run against them is evidence of the GOP’s “new vigor” in what has been a traditional Democratic stronghold, Yearout said.
“Jefferson County has been Democratic, I guess, going back all the way to the Civil War,” said Anne Dungan, chairman of the Republican Executive Committee in Jefferson County.
Excited about the party’s effort to recruit candidates this year, Dungan said Jefferson County’s vote for Republican Bill Maloney in the special gubernatorial election last fall is particularly notable given the county was among only seven in West Virginia that backed President Obama in 2008.
Dungan credited the support of Harpers Ferry attorney Patrick Morrisey, saying he has been “a real boon to the Republican Party in Jefferson County.”
Morrisey filed to run for Attorney General against Democratic incumbent Darrell V. McGraw Jr. this year.
“We’re very high on him,” Dungan said.