CHARLESTON - As expected, Gov. Joe Manchin has apparently won re-election, defeating Republican challenger Russ Weeks, and Republican presidential candidate John McCain has received West Virginia's five electoral votes.
Manchin, a 61-year-old elected to his second four-year term, held a 69-27 advantage over Weeks in a poll released last week by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling. The Associated Press made the call Tuesday night based on an analysis of voter interviews conducted by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.
The exit poll showed a 74-23 early lead for Manchin.
Voters gave McCain a 55-42 edge in the PPP poll conducted last week. CBS News made the call for McCain.
Manchin, a Farmington native and former secretary of state, defeated Republican Monty Warner in 2004. He has made improving the state's business climate a top priority.
He was recently criticized by a Florida plaintiffs lawyer who is representing approximately 7,000 Harrison County residents involved in a class action lawsuit against industrial giant DuPont.
Manchin got involved in the case by filing an amicus brief that asked the state Supreme Court to consider hearing cases with large punitive damages awards.
The $381 million award provides $55 million for remediation damages, $130 million in medical monitoring costs and $196.2 in punitive damages. Plaintiffs attorneys were awarded nearly $130 million, too.
One of those attorneys, Mike Papantonio of Pensacola, Fla., said Manchin was a "puppet" of DuPont's. Records show he met with DuPont officials before filing, though his office maintains that Manchin was not influenced by the company.
DuPont is alleged to have dumped arsenic, cadmium and lead at its Harrison County facility.
"What is amazing to me is that while our brief is based solely on the legal principles of due process and the right of appeal, the trial lawyers' brief, led by several big out-of-state law firms, does not address that legal issue in any way..." Manchin said.
Manchin filed his brief June 24, and records show that he had met with a DuPont official and attorney three weeks earlier.
Also, DuPont lawyers gave Manchin two draft briefs that made many of the same arguments he made, and he spoke on the phone in Nov. 2007, less than a month after the Harrison County Circuit Court verdict, with DuPont's chief executive.
The Court recently decided to hear DuPont's appeal, as well as the appeal of a group of landowners shut out of the award by ownership agreements from the 1920s.
Also, Manchin said in October that the State was contemplating a lawsuit against the investment firms that were recently bailed out by the federal government.
"We've suffered losses in our portfolio because of their inability to operate," said Lara Ramsburg, Manchin's spokesperson. "While it's not a significant amount of money, it's still a loss."
According to his re-election Web site, Manchin's goals for the next four years include improving the economic climate, continue progression towards affordable quality healthcare for all citizens and making sure the state is using its resources to establish a stable and secure energy future.
Weeks, of Raleigh County, was formerly a state senator.
Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama was crushed in May's primary by Hillary Clinton, and probably didn't help himself in West Virginia by remarking in January that he would put restrictions on coal-burning power plants that would bankrupt them.
"I was the first to call for a 100 percent auction on the cap and trade system, which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases emitted would be charged to the polluter," Obama said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle..
"That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants that are being built, that they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted down caps that are being placed, imposed every year.
"So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it's just that it will bankrupt them because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted."