CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia's special gubernatorial primary turned out to be a quiet day Saturday as voters generally stayed away from the polls on what was the state's fourth election over the past 12 months.
Eight Republicans and six Democrats were running for the chance to represent their respective parties in the Oct. 4 general election. The Mountain Party selected its candidate, Bob Henry Baber, during a convention earlier this month.
Besides a power outage at one precinct, a parade at another and a quick address change for a third, the polls opened across the state without any major hitches, Dave Nichols, elections director for the Secretary of State's office, said during a webcast from his office.
Monongalia County Clerk Carye Blaney said a lot of other activities in the county — including West Virginia University's graduation ceremonies — resulted in low turnout in her northern West Virginia county. Despite running additional ads to drum up interest in the election, Blaney said even early voter turnout was down this year.
About 4 percent of West Virginia's eligible voters cast ballots during the state's 11-day early voting period, which ended Wednesday. In Monongalia County, only 3 percent of the county's eligible voters cast early votes, Blaney said.
"I think it's more voter fatigue than anything else," Blaney said Saturday. "I heard people say they didn't think the election was necessary" and that translates into people not voting.
Saturday's election is to fill the remainder of former Gov. Joe Manchin's term, which is up in 2012. Manchin left office last November after he was elected to the U.S. Senate to fill a vacancy created by the death of Sen. Robert C. Byrd.
Under the state Constitution's succession language, Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin has been acting governor since last November. Tomblin and his advisers felt he should keep the acting job until the regular 2012 election. But that interpretation of the law was challenged, and In January the state Supreme Court ruled Manchin's successor must be elected and take office by Nov. 15.
Tomblin, D-Logan, is among the six Democrats seeking the party's nomination. The others include a who's who list of Democrats — House Speaker Rick Thompson; acting Senate President Jeff Kessler; Secretary of State Natalie Tennant; and state Treasurer John Perdue.
Republicans seeking the nomination include former Secretary of State Betty Ireland, the state's first woman elected to an executive office, and Morgantown businessman Bill Maloney, who helped develop the drilling technique that freed 33 Chilean miners trapped for 69 days after a mine collapse last year.
Dominant topics during the primary season included jobs, taxes, and the size of government, in a state where the seasonally adjusted unemployment has remained above 9 percent since August.
Another theme is how to best regulate the developing Marcellus shale natural gas field that runs from West Virginia to New York. The field is expected to generate billions in taxes and create thousands of jobs, though developing the vast reserve also has raised environmental concerns.
The winner of the October election would serve a term of around 15 months and could run for re-election to a four-year term in 2012. The winner could not seek another term in 2016 because of term limits.