HARPERS FERRY (Legal Newsline) – By comparison, Republican attorney general candidate Patrick Morrisey’s win over incumbent Darrell McGraw Tuesday was a landslide.
Even though he gathered just 51 percent of the vote, Morrisey’s winning margin of 16,314 is larger than McGraw’s previous two combined. McGraw’s 2004 and 2008 victories were two of the closest statewide races in West Virginia history.
One of the counties that turned for Morrisey was his home county of Jefferson, the state’s easternmost county. In fact, partnered with neighbor Berkeley, Morrisey won the tip of the Eastern Panhandle by a combined 12,943 votes.
“Patrick did wage an aggressive campaign. He was all over the state all the time,” said Anne Dungan, the Republican Party chair in Jefferson County. “But the Eastern Panhandle – I don’t know if we’ve ever had an elected official to a statewide office from here.
“I think people in the Eastern Panhandle felt we weren’t represented in Charleston and were also pretty fed up with the corruption in that office. It was just the right time, as far as I can see.”
While Jefferson usually leans more to the left than Berkeley, the county also will be sending a Republican delegate to Charleston – Paul Espinosa – for the first time in many years, Dungan said. Even Mitt Romney gained the majority of votes in Jefferson after the county was one of the few in the state to vote for Barack Obama in 2008.
“I’m hoping this can be a tipping point in getting the Eastern Panhandle better represented, and more Republicans,” Dungan said.
In 2008, Charleston attorney Dan Greear defeated McGraw in Berkeley County by 1,559 votes, while McGraw earned 2,251 more in Jefferson – a total win by 692 for McGraw.
Tuesday, Berkeley voters cast 8,507 more votes for Morrisey than McGraw, and Morrisey won his home county by 4,436.
State GOP chairman Conrad Lucas said the news from Jefferson County is encouraging and noted the importance the region could have in future elections.
“To be successful in a statewide election, you’ll absolutely have to focus time and attention up there,” he said. “It’s a growing area, but a different electorate than candidates are used to.”
Lucas explained that Eastern Panhandlers are much more difficult to target with television advertising because they live in the Washington, D.C., market, and ad time is more expensive. Voters in the area watched expensive battles like Maryland’s Question 7, which legalized table games and a casino at National Harbor, play out during commercial breaks.
“Having a physical presence and strong ground game (in the Eastern Panhandle) is essential for statewide candidates, in particular because buying ads is cost-prohibitive,” Lucas said.
Another county that voted heavily for Morrisey is Wood County, where he won by more than 8,400. That amount is in line with 2008, when Greear won the vote by more than 7,500.
The state’s largest county, Kanawha, favored McGraw by more than 4,000 votes. It was a large turnaround for McGraw, who lost the county by almost the same amount in 2008.
Reach John O’Brien at email@example.com.