Oliverio Ousts Incumbent Mollohan in W.Va. Primary
Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) tonight became the second incumbent in a week to be ousted by his own party, losing to state Sen. Mike Oliverio 56-44 percent in the primary in West Virginia’s 1st District.
Mollohan has been in Congress since 1983 and had easily fended off challenges since his first re-election bid, garnering at least 64 percent of the vote in every general election. Oliverio, who made ethics and integrity the focal points of his campaign, repeatedly blasted Mollohan over his involvement in a series of earmarking scandals. Though the Justice Department investigated Mollohan’s personal finances and his involvement in these scandals, it never charged him. Mollohan’s loss was not a total surprise, however, as pundits had generally predicted he would face a tough battle for re-nomination.
Oliverio thanked voters and said he looked forward to the general election campaign.
“Our campaign message has been one of fiscal responsibility and one of restoring integrity and I think those two themes really resonated with the voters in the Northern Panhandle,” he said.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen said in a statement that he remains optimistic about his party’s chances of holding the seat.
“This was a tough and spirited primary process and we are confident that this historically Democratic seat will remain Democratic this November,” he said.
Former state GOP Chairman David McKinley, who won in a six-person primary tonight, will face Oliverio in the general election.
Elsewhere in West Virginia, Reps. Shelley Moore Capito (R) and Nick Rahall (D) both won their primaries. Former nun Virginia Lynch Graf (D) is Capito’s general election opponent, while former state Supreme Court justice Elliott Maynard (R) will challenge Rahall.
Nebraska’s three Republican representatives fared better, as Jeff Fortenberry, Lee Terry and Adrian Smith all easily won re-nomination. Author and former journalist Ivy Harper (D) led slightly in her primary bid to challenge Fortenberry. State legislator Tom White (D) will challenge Terry, while hospital chaplain Rebekah Davis (D) will face Smith.
Gov. Dave Heineman (R) easily won his party’s nomination, while his challenger, businessman Mark Lakers (D), was unopposed in his primary.
The House seat Rep. Nathan Deal (R) vacated remains unfilled, as no candidate got a majority of the votes. Deal resigned to focus on his bid for governor. Former state Rep. Tom Graves (R) and former state Sen. Lee Hawkins (R) will compete in a June 8 runoff election, which only decides who will hold the seat through Jan. 3, 2011. Georgia’s regular primary election will be held July 20.
Update: The Sioux City Journal declared Harper the primary winner Thursday morning. She edged out her nearest opponent, writer and musician Jessica Turek, by 390 votes.