The West Virginia 1st District House race is an interesting contest for political junkies. It began with the un-seating of 15-term incumbent Democrat Alan Mollohan by state senator Mike Oliverio in the May 11 primary.
Republican David McKinley, the GOP's nominee, most likely would have preferred to run against Mollohan, who was dogged by allegations of ethics violations. Due to this upset, Oliverio and McKinley are now facing off as first-time contenders for the congressional seat.
Candidates for West Virginia's 1st Congressional District (two-year term)
(This district includes Fairmont, Parkersburg, Morgantown and large industrial sections. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: Mike Oliverio
Political experience: Oliverio currently represents District 13 in the West Virginia state senate. He has held this position since 1994. Prior to this post, he was a state house delegate from 1992 to 1994. He chairs the committee on labor and holds membership position in committees on economic development, education, the judiciary, the military and pensions.
Professional experience: Oliverio says he lives the American dream. Descended from Italian immigrants, he says he studied hard, worked hard and is now reaping the rewards for his efforts. He worked as an insurance agent, served in the United States Army and also worked at a bank.
Key issues: Oliverio is a decidedly conservative Democrat. He leans pro-life -- as evidenced by his "yes" vote for parental notification in cases of juvenile abortion -- and is fiscally conservative. In fact, his concern over the national debt was the primary reason for challenging Mollohan in the primary.
Endorsements: Oliverio's challenge of Mollohan did not sit well with the Democratic Party. As such, the official endorsement by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen was, according to Who Runs Gov, "dutiful." He received a more enthusiastic backing from West Virginians for Life.
Chances of winning this seat: OpenSecrets.org shows that Oliverio raised approximately $827,375, of which $303,380 is cash on hand as of late September. With 86 percent of contribution coming from individual donors, it is apparent that this candidate has managed to mobilize voters on the grassroots level, which gives him a decided edge. As Democratic Party loyalists will vote the party line, his chances of winning are good. Oliverio may be able to count on some votes from the pro-life voting block.
Candidate: David McKinley
Political experience: David McKinley was a delegate for the West Virginia state house from 1981 to 1994. He was also a candidate for governor in 1996. In 1990, he chaired the West Virginia Republican Party Executive Committee.
Professional experience: McKinley worked for 12 years in the construction industry and then went on to found and work for his own architectural and engineering company.
Key issues: As outlined on his campaign website, McKinley favors term limits, an elimination of earmarks and also greater restraint on the use of taxpayer money to fund campaigning. He champions tax reform that does away with loopholes and makes the tax code easier to navigate for taxpayers.
Endorsements: Project Vote Smart shows that McKinley received the endorsement of the Republican National Coalition for Life PAC and the Parkersburg News. It is interesting to note that the West Virginians for Life Political Action Committee also endorsed him.
Chances of winning this seat: McKinley faces a tough challenge against a Democrat who is not only conservative but also appeals to the Democratic support that ensured his predecessor's 15-term tenure. McKinley raised $966,934, of which $306,829 are still available as cash on hand. What sheds a bit of light on his popularity is the nature of his donations: OpenSecrets.org shows that 59 percent stem from the candidate's own pocket while 36 percent come from private donations.
Key Differences between Mike Oliverio and David McKinley
There aren't many solid differences between the candidates. Due to Oliverio's conservative stances, he frequently represents a "McKinley lite" version of the latter's hard-lined stances.
Health care: McKinley opposes the health care bill that Congress passed. While he agrees for the need for health care reform, he does not believe that the federal government should be dabbling in a private-sector enterprise. Oliverio sees the merit in the goals of the health care bill, but he is quick to suggest that it requires copious revisions.
Debt: Oliverio believes that a balanced budget is the only "responsible way to manage" a government. McKinley plans on curbing Washington's overspending through an elimination of earmarks, fraud and "sweetheart deals."
West Virginia's 1st U.S. Congressional District
Location: The West Virginia 1st District is located in the northern portion of the state. A part of the district falls under the Rust Belt area, so pro-industrial voters play a role here. Larger cities include Wheeling, Clarksburg and Morgantown.
2008 results: Mollohan won 99 percent of the vote against two write-in candidates.
Demographics: The 1st District has approximately 594,613 residents. Of these, 95.82 percent are white, 1.85 percent are black and 1.05 percent are Latino or Hispanic. About 17 percent of residents live at the poverty level.
The Cook Partisan Index gives the West Virginia 1st District a rating of R+9, so it's a somewhat Republican leaning district.