MARTINSBURG, W.V. – During lunch at a chain restaurant more than 80 miles away from Capitol Hill, voters expressed mixed sentiments to TMN about the hotly contested West Virginia Senate race between incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrissey.
“I’m pleased to be a Joe Manchin supporter. I already voted for him last week. How’s that?” said Phil Cox, an 82-year-old retired certified public accountant (CPA) from Shepherdstown.
Cox said Manchin was “a good governor,” and is a “really good senator.” Cox described Manchin as “an unusual senator,” saying the incumbent is “independent” and usually “does what’s right.”
Claire Wachtel, 29, of Martinsburg, is a nursing student at nearby Shepherd University. Like Cox, she too supports Manchin.
“Manchin seems more interested in adjusting” policies toward addressing the “opioid epidemic,” than Morrissey does. Wachtel said Morrissey is more concerned about the well-being of the “pharmaceutical companies” than helping addicted West Virginians.
Watchel credited Manchin for securing federal funds both to combat opioid addiction and build more rehabilitation centers in the state.
Linda Cluver, 77, a retired Illinois school teacher who has lived in the Martinsburg area for almost 3 years, described Manchin’s legislative record as “nil.” She said it does not reflect the priorities of West Virginia voters but did not elaborate.
Cluver, who said she will vote “straight Republican” on Tuesday, said Morrissey “seems to hit the issues right on the head.” She added: “it’s time for a change.”
When asked if the state’s economy has improved under President Donald Trump, Cluver, said: “I do.”
Manchin, 71, has served in the Senate since 2013. He previously served five years as West Virginia governor. Manchin is considered one of the few remaining conservative Democrats in national office.
Morrissey, 50, has served as West Virginia’s top law enforcement officer since 2013. He is a staunch conservative and enjoys strong support from the White House.
A MetroNews Dominion Post West Virginia Poll released last week showed Manchin leading Morrissey by five points.
Trump won West Virginia by 42 points-a larger percentage than any other state except Wyoming.
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.
Bill Clinton was the last Democrat to carry the state in a presidential election.