EDITORIAL: Like Underwood in 1996, Here Comes Clark Barnes

Senator Barnes
Senator Barnes

As we have noted before, West Virginia Republicans have a decent shot at the Governor's Mansion this year.  Despite the next Governor's term only being for about a year, such an opportunity would give the GOP a chance to show the state what a real Republican Administration looks like, setting the GOP up well for both the Governor's race and legislative contests in 2012.

However, as has always been the case in West Virginia, the Republicans need to put up the right candidate to secure victory in October.   The last time they did this successfully was when they went with Governor Cecil Underwood back in 1996.  That race is instructive, because Underwood won that year against two fierce opponents, one of whom was better funded than him.

But people came to see in the last couple of weeks in that primary campaign that they wanted a Republican with Underwood's blend of private sector and state government experience.   In the end, Underwood won by a comfortable margin over Jon McBride, the better funded candidate.  

Underwood then went on to win the general election that fall over Charlotte Pritt, in large part because, like Clark Barnes has done in his Democratic State Senate District, he was able to interpret his conservative values across the aisle to Democrats.

This year, just as State Senator Clark Barnes has Underwood's combined business and government experience, Bill Maloney has all the appearances of being the Jon McBride of this year's race.   Like McBride experienced in 1996, Maloney has enjoyed an initial surge, not enough to leap to first place in the polling, but enough to reflect the initial interest in his race.   Some West Virginia voters like a fresh face, even on someone whom they don't know at all. 

Like McBride with his space shuttle experience, Maloney has been touting his Chilean adventure.  While it's an interesting story, more and more readers are telling us that they don't see how it relates to their problems here in West Virginia.  Voters said similar things about Jon McBride's space shuttle trips.   They were impressed by this experience--but failed to see how it related to their lives here.  As a result, McBride's numbers peaked and trailed off--as Maloney's may do now as he and Betty Ireland start to attack one another with over two weeks to go to Primary Election Day on May 14th.

Meanwhile, State Senator Clark Barnes has tackled all of the major problems facing his Eastern West Virginia constituents for the past six years:  asking questions about the size of the state government, dealing with the state's response to Obamacare, the Marcellus Shale bonanza, state highways, and the list goes on.  He is the most informed candidate in the race, in either party, and he knows how to deal with the legislature from the moment he is sworn in to office.

Republicans have always sought to put one of their own in as Governor as an effective counterweight to the Democratic legislature.  But you have to know your way around to be able to negotiate with the legislative leaders, or they will eat any Governor for lunch, as has been their custom in the past.

If we need a drilling expert, we'll call Bill Maloney for sure.  But if it's a Governor we need, it's time to call State Senator Clark Barnes of Elkins.



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