Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 21, 2011

Capital Focus: Special W.Va. gov race costs candidates $10.4 million

Associated Press

CHARLESTON (AP) — West Virginians were only electing a governor for a 14-month term, but that didn’t stop the candidates from spending $10.4 million, the special gubernatorial campaigns’ final round of finance reports show.

The spending on the May primary and last month’s general election together fell slightly below levels seen during the 2004 race for governor. That was the last time the seat was open — but it was also up for a full, four-year term.

This year’s winner, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, must resume campaigning almost immediately. After this year’s unexpected election, the office is on the 2012 ballot for a full term. But Tomblin has gained the edge of incumbency, and also proved able to attract campaign cash.

The Democrat was the money leader throughout the special election season. Tomblin raised $1.6 million in advance of the primary and another $2.2 million before his Oct. 4 general election win. Over the course of the race, Tomblin also transferred nearly $428,000 from his state Senate campaign fund toward his gubernatorial bid. He moved most of that money during the primary phase.

While Senate president, Tomblin began acting as governor last November following the U.S. Senate election win of then-Gov. Joe Manchin. Resolving legal challenges arising from West Virginia’s succession process, the state Supreme Court mandated that an elected governor take office within a year of Manchin’s resignation as chief executive. A state senator since 1980 and the body’s president for a record 17 years, Tomblin had built up a hefty legislative campaign fund when the state hastily arranged a special election cycle.

Around 55 percent of this year’s spending came during the primary phase. The six-way Democratic contest accounted for three-fourths of the primary spending. Led by Tomblin, that field also included House Speaker Rick Thompson, state Treasurer John Perdue, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and then-acting Senate President Jeff Kessler.

But while Tomblin spent $2.2 million during the general election phase, GOP rival Bill Maloney outspent him by more than $226,000. The Republican came within 7,100 votes of beating Tomblin in the October general.

A Morgantown business owner and drilling consultant, Maloney devoted $2.45 million from his personal wealth toward his campaign. He loaned $650,000 of that during the primary, where he prevailed over seven other GOP candidates for that party’s nomination.

The balance of Maloney’s self-financing helped him keep pace with Tomblin during the general election phase. Maloney raised $570,300 from contributors during that phase, one-fourth of Tomblin’s haul. Maloney attracted just $57,300 during the final, Sept. 19-Oct. 16 reporting period. Tomblin raised nearly $396,000 during those closing weeks.

Hailing from Logan County in the state’s southern coalfields, Tomblin found mining interests and others in the energy sector a key source of campaign cash. The health care and finance sectors were also well-represented among his donors.

Fundraising events played a major role in Tomblin’s campaign financing. He held 82 of them, attracting $2.4 million. Maloney held about half as many fundraisers, and they provided just over half his contributions.

Each nominee held eight fundraisers out of state, but both raised a majority of their funds from West Virginians. Campaign finance rules require contributors who give more than $250 at a time to provide their address as well as information about their occupation and employer. Nearly 73 percent of these larger-dollar donations received by Tomblin came from West Virginia, according to his reports. Just over two-thirds of such contributions to Maloney were in-state.

Tomblin reported a $41,302 campaign balance as of Oct. 16, but also listed $61,000 in unpaid bills. After the election, Maloney’s campaign appealed for donations for its debts. That raised less than $4,000, and Maloney loaned his campaign another $150,000 shortly before the reporting period ended.

West Virginia was among just four states this year that voted for governors. That likely helped it attract a reported $6.1 million in non-candidate spending. The Republican Governors Association accounted for $3.4 million of that, while the Democratic-funded America Works USA spent $2.4 million.

But at least one of these other states saw greater spending by candidates. In neighboring Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear alone raised more than $10 million before his successful re-election bid earlier this month.

Lawrence Messina covers the statehouse for The Associated Press. Follow him at