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GOP's Lucas Will Ride Herd in 2nd Congressional District Mega-Primary
Just this past week, two Republican candidates, former Public Service Commissioner Charlotte Lane and political newcomer Ron Walters, Jr. made it official, announcing their candidacies.
But that may just be the beginning of a wild and wooly May 2014 primary for those jockeying to replace 2nd District Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, who has announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Jay Rockefeller.
Other Republicans interested in Capito's seat include: former Kanawha County State Senator Steve Harrison, current Kanawha County Delegate Suzette Raines, former Berkeley County Delegate Larry Faircloth, and former Maryland State Senator Alex Mooney. The winner of the GOP Primary will likely face former State Democratic Chair Nick Casey, a Charleston attorney.
At first glance, Conrad Lucas might seem to have a problem on his hands, given that a crowded primary could divide Republicans, seeming to make it easier for Nick Casey to have a smoother time after his smooth, unifying primary.
However, the crowded GOP primary demonstrates that each of these Republican candidates feels good about their chances after their primary--if they can just find a way to win. After 14 years of successful Republican campaigns by Congresswoman Capito, many Republicans think that their stock has risen, despite the historic Democratic superiority in voter registration in that district and statewide.
Clearly, that ignores the trends seen in both the First and Second Congressional Districts, along with the now four consecutive Presidential elections which have all gone for the Republican candidate here.
However, Lucas may also know one other important dynamic that state politicos have known for generations: a vigorous primary competition generates much more press and public interest than a dull coronation of a single major candidate. Just look at the windfall of press the WV GOP received this past week from Charlotte Lane and Ron Walters, Jr. getting into the race.
Lucas looks like the man heading a modern state political party that, for some reason, is the place where all the action is taking place.
If Lucas can find a way to encourage a fair and vigorous discussion of the issues among his several 2nd District candidates, the winner of that contest will be much better known than they were at the start of the race. This will propel the winner into the general election season with a strong tailwind, provided that the primary wasn't too personally bruising for anyone.
That will be Lucas's main task as GOP Chair in races like these: understanding that politics is a contact sport while encouraging all of his Republican candidates to avoid any unnecessary roughness.
In the 1996 GOP gubernatorial primary between Cecil Underwood, Jon McBride, and David McKinley, the losers in that contest, McBride and McKinley, quickly rallied to give their support to Underwood, the primary election winner. This was easier than one might expect for two reasons:
1. As Republicans, the three men agreed ideologically on most issues;
2. Because it was a three-way race, instead of a strictly one-on-one contest, the race didn't get overly personal.
In a multiple-candidate race like the upcoming contest in the 2nd Congressional District's GOP Primary, the same result should manifest for the winner of the Republican Primary.