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Reporter’s Notebook: Week three at the Legislature

As predicted, the legislative session has been quiet so far, though that might change now that the candidate filing period has closed.

Saturday was the last day to file, and while there might still be some filings working their way through the mail (if they’re postmarked for Saturday, they’re still good), the list is more or less complete.

Now that state senators and delegates can see whether they have a contested primary and who their challengers are, it might affect what kind of bills are introduced and what kinds of legislative fights we’ll see.

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Let’s take a look at some of the contested Senate races, starting with the 1st District. Senate Majority Whip Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, has a primary challenger in Weirton truck driver Jack Newbrough. In a six-man Republican primary for U.S. Senate in 2018, Newbrough came in dead last with 2.99 percent compared to Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who won the nomination with 34.9 percent.

If Weld wins, he’ll face Del. Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock. Swartzmiller returned to the House in 2018, defeating former delegate Mark Zatezalo by 123 votes. Swartzmiller previously served from 2000 to 2012. Weld has one term in the Senate under his belt and has the population base of Ohio County and Wheeling in his district, but teachers – who claim credit for taking out former Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns – might try for a repeat and take out Weld.

In the 2nd District, state Sen. Mike Maroney is running for a second term after telling me two weeks ago he wasn’t sure if he would file. Understandable: he’s awaiting trial for charges of conspiracy, house of ill fame and assignation and prostitution. You’re innocent until proven guilty, and Maroney has pleaded not guilty. But the text messages are out there and are bound to be used by an opponent.

Maroney will face a primary challenge from Metz resident Elijah Dean, though I’m surprised Republican leaders didn’t quietly field a more well-known candidate. Not only did they not, the Senate Republican political action committee put out a press release Friday supporting Maroney, complete with Republican senators standing behind him as he filed. Carla Jones, a pipeline inspector from Marion County, is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, has faced challenges from his left flank, but now he has two Republican primary challengers in the 4th District coming at him from his right. These include Del. Jim Butler, R-Mason, and Leon resident and teacher Amy Grady. Teachers might be included to rally to Grady due to Carmichael’s pushing of education legislation that included anti-teacher provisions (penalties for striking, changes to seniority, etc.). Social conservatives worried about Carmichael’s statements on LGBTQ non-discrimination might rally to Butler. The winner will face Ripley resident Bruce Ashworth.

Wes Blankenship, a perennial candidate for office from Mingo County, is challenging state Sen. Chandler Swope, R-Mercer, in the 6th District Republican primary. Blankenship also challenged state Sen. Mark Maynard, R-Wayne, in the 2018 Republican primary, only getting 39 percent.

In the 8th District, state Sen. Sue Cline, R-Wyoming, faces two challengers in the Republican primary. Wyoming County Circuit Clerk David “Bugs” Stover and Robert Mooney, owner of Mooney Excavating and Paving in Beckley.

In the 10th District, state Sen. Kenny Mann, R-Monroe, is not seeing reelection. Dan Hill, the owner of the historic Glen Farris Inn in Fayette County, and Summers County Commissioner Jack David Woodrum are running in the Republican primary to replace Mann. The winner will face Democrat and Oak Hill native William Laird IV – the son of former state senator William Laird III.

In the 11th District, newly-appointed state Sen. John “J.R.” Pitsenbarger, R-Nicholas, will face a Republican primary challenge from former Upshur County state senator Robert Karnes. Pitsenbarger, the vice president of the West Virginia Farm Bureau, was appointed to the seat held by former senator Greg Boso, who resigned last year.

Karnes was defeated in the 2018 Republican primary by current state Sen. Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur, only carrying 37 percent of the vote. I guess Karnes thinks a zip code change might help him return to the Senate. The winner will face former delegate Denise Campbell.

In the 12th District Republican primary, Lewis County real estate agent Derrick Love and two-term Del. Patrick Martin, R-Lewis, are vying to challenge state Sen. Doug Facemire, D-Braxton.

The 13th District is an open seat, with Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso not seeking retiring after this year. House Minority Whip Mike Caputo, D-Marion, has no primary challengers. Former Marion County Parks and Recreation Commission event coordinator John Provins and retired teacher Rebecca Polis are candidates in the Republican primary.

Kenneth Matson, who ran and lost in the Berkeley County Magistrate race in 2016, filed to challenge Senate Finance Committee Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, in the Republican primary for the 15th District.

In the 17th District, state Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, is retiring. Two Democrats have filed for the primary for his seat: two-term Del. Andrew Robinson, D-Kanawha, and former state employee Jon Hague. The winner will face Del. Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, in November.

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Speaking of Prezioso, I sat down with the Senate Minority Leader and former Senate Finance Committee chairman on this week’s State of the State podcast, as well as U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va. You can listen to State of the State every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and Spotify. You can also catch it every Tuesday at 6:06 p.m. on WMOV 1360 AM and 106.7 FM in Ravenswood, or the TuneIn app.