Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


May 7, 2014

Local races, as well as state and federal contests, merit your vote

— — It’s hard to believe that the primary election is almost here. But ready or not, the ballots will be counted seven days from now. And a critical decision will be rendered by voters that will have a direct impact on the local, state and federal level.

Of course there will be a few cliff-hangers as well. This is a primary election. So in many instances we will be selecting a candidate by political party only. So — for example — we won’t have a winner between Republican Shelley-Moore Capito and Democrat Natalie Tennant in West Virginia’s closely watched U.S. Senate race until this November. Both Tennant and Capito have opponents in the May 13 primary, but with all due respect to their challengers, their chances of securing either the Democratic or Republican nominations are slim. In fact, many are already looking past the May 13 primary and ahead to November for the Capito-Tennant match-up, which could have potential ramifications in terms of which political party will control the U.S. Senate.

The same goes for the big U.S. House 3rd District contest. Although he has an opponent for the Democratic nomination, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., will safely win the Democratic nomination on May 13. The big contest will be this November when he faces Democrat-turned Republican Evan Jenkins for the 3rd District U.S. House of Representatives seat.

Locally, there is a lot of interest in the race to fill a single seat on the Mercer County Commission. The election was ordered as a result of the death of long-time commissioner Joe Coburn. Five Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination. They include Terry Basham, who was appointed to fill a temporary vacancy on the commission following Coburn’s death, and fellow Democrats Robert W. “Bob” Carter, Phillip B. Ball, Lyle Cottle and John Sommers. The winner of this five-man Democratic race will face Republican Greg Puckett in November. Puckett is running unopposed for the Republican nomination.

There is also a crowded local race in McDowell County where eight candidates are vying for three seats on the local board of education. The candidates include incumbents Jimmy Copolo, Lynda “Pip” Evans and Kevin Wade, along with challengers Margaret Beavers, Julie Church, Brenda S. Goodson, Mike Mitchem and Georgia Muncy West. It’s good to see a lot of interest in the non-partisan school board contest, particularly considering that McDowell County Schools just recently came out of state control.

Many in the region have already voted thanks to the convenience provided by early balloting. And you can still vote early until Saturday. Many others will wait until Tuesday to cast a ballot. And many more — unfortunately — will not vote. Some aren’t registered to vote. Some have gone throughout life without ever voting. And that’s a shame considering that the ability to cast a ballot for our elected leaders is one of our greatest freedoms. How could you not vote in a year when the control of Congress is in play? And I couldn’t imagine not casting a ballot in a presidential election.

But when all is said and done — will anything change? It could. Right now we have a divided government. Democrats control the U.S. Senate. Republicans control the U.S. House of Representatives. Many will argue — perhaps correctly — that this is a good thing. It ensures that one political party doesn’t have control over both chambers of Congress and the White House. Democrats, of course, controlled both the U.S. Senate and the U.S.  House during the first two years of the administration of President Barack Obama. And  many were not pleased with what happened during those two years. Others argued that Democrats could have and should have done more during the time that they had control of both chambers of Congress.

Lately, the problem has been the inability of lawmakers in the House and Senate to work together on items of interest to everyday voters. That may or may not change come this November. If Republicans retain control of the House, and Democrats retain control of the Senate, we could see more of the same for the next two years.

Of course if Republicans win the U.S. Senate this November — a possibility — it could make for a long final year in office for President Obama.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at Follow him @BDTOwens.


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