WASHINGTON – West Virginia is seeing near-record turnout among early voters, according to the state’s former Republican chair and current Democratic party chair.
“We would expect traditional lower turnout than a presidential year, however, if the first two days of early voting are any indicator whatsoever, we may be on par with one of the highest mid-term turnouts we’ve ever had in West Virginia,” former GOP Chair Conrad Lucas told TMN last week.
He added: “Right now our early votes are outpacing all early votes in the past, including presidential years, but again, that is based on just a couple days worth of data.”
“There are people out that I haven’t seen out in a long time and there a lot of new faces. So we’re having a great turnout for our rallies and early voting numbers,” Democratic Party Chair Belinda Biafore told TMN Wednesday.
She added: “I think yesterday (Tuesday) we actually surpassed the early voting numbers for 2014 and we still have a week left to go.”
Early voting in West Virginia began on Oct 24 and runs through Saturday, Nov. 3.
Much attention is focused on the Senate contest between incumbent Joe Manchin (D) and Attorney General Patrick Morrissey (R). The outcome of the race could potentially determine which party controls the upper chamber next year.
Republicans occupy 51 seats. Democrats occupy 49 seats.
A MetroNews Dominion Post West Virginia Poll released today showed Manchin leading Morrissey 45 percent to 40 percent.
Manchin, 71, has served in the Senate since 2013. He previously served five years as West Virginia governor.
Manchin is one of the few remaining conservative Democrats in national office. He represents a state President Donald Trump won by 42 points-a larger percentage than any other in the nation.
Manchin supports the coal industry, which many believe is the economic lifeblood of West Virginia. He is pro-Second Amendment.
Manchin is one of three Democrats who last year voted to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. He is the only Democrat who voted to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the high court.
Lucas said Manchin has lost touch with West Virginia.
“Joe Manchin’s record is lockstep with [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer,” he said. “There have been times where he has voted as people of West Virginia would want but his record is clear: He sponsored anti-gun legislation in Washington…he endorsed Hillary Clinton and stood by her even after she said she wanted to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”
Biafore said Manchin is a fighter for West Virginia.
“Joe Manchin never stops working and fighting for the people of West Virginia and in the end, Joe Manchin will prevail,” she said.
For most of the 20th century, West Virginia was a Democratic stronghold. That begun to change in the late 1990s as environmental activists opposed to coal became more influential in Democratic Party circles.
Since 2000 the state has gone Republican in every presidential election.