By ROMAN STAUFFER
CHARLESTON -- Is Congressman Alan Mollohan planning to run for re-election?
With Democrats across the country dropping like flies West Virginia political operatives and observers have to be wondering if Congressman Alan Mollohan could be the next Democrat to bail on a re-election campaign.
There is no doubt that should Mollohan choose to run he would face a tough campaign. The National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee (NRCC) has made it known that Mollohan is a target for defeat in 2010. Mollohan was targeted in 2006, but the environment toward Democrats wasn't as toxic as it appears to be this year.
It also appears the NRCC has recruited a strong candidate in David McKinley. If McKinley is nominated, he would bring a network of contacts throughout West Virginia who will prove helpful when raising money to run a strong general election campaign.
Many believe that when the initial campaign finance reports are made public in January that McKinley will have far outpaced the fundraising of every candidate in the race, including Mollohan.
In 2009, Mollohan didn't focused on raising a lot of money for a political campaign. The most recent report of his campaign account shows a cash balance of $30,118. The committee has a debt of $135,000, most of which was acrued through paying lawyers defending Mollohan who is under investigation by the Justice Department.
The Justice Department investigation is another factor fueling rumors that Mollohan will not run this year. There are few details on the Justice Department's investigation, but we know it exists.
Mollohan's questionable business dealings and other actions have resulted in him being named one of Washington's "Most Currupt" Members of Congress by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
The shady dealings and questionable ethics would make defending Mollohan's seat more expensive than the average incumbent race this year.
This week, Congressman Chris Van Hollen confirmed to ABC News that there are a "couple more" retirements that he knows of on the Democratic side of the aisle. Van Hollen chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) the organization responsible for Democratic candidates and campaigns in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Several sources in Morgantown confirmed rumors that Mollohan is considering not running. Many in Morgantown have heard that West Virginia State Senator Mike Oliverio and West Virginia Delegate Alex Shook are interested in representing West Virginia's First Congressional District if Mollohan chooses to not run.
At this point, I think it's safe to say either way West Virginia's First Congressional District will have a new representative in Washington this time next year.
Stauffer is a political and government affairs consultant. He is founder and editor of the Web site West Virginia Red, which can be found at www.wvared.com.