West Virginia is known for its coal industry, with the southern part of the state the industry’s heart. This southern West Virginia district is anchored by the cities of Beckley and Huntingdon, where Marshall University is located. It is represented by Democrat incumbent, Nick Rahall, who has been in office since the 1970s.
Rahall’s longevity in Congress – he’s served 17 terms – has been spent working to represent the Democrats’ agenda. His partisan voting record speaks for itself: he’s voted with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats 97% of the time. His support of the Democrat agenda is tough for some of his constituents to handle, since President Obama’s War on Coal is hurting the voters of West Virginia’s Third more than most.
Rahall hasn’t just misrepresented his own constituents, though. He’s used his stature as a longterm incumbent to get cozy with the President, Hollywood stars, and voters in the Virgin Islands. While Rahall has been “busy” at work helping island vacationers, southern West Virginia has seen some of the most devastating losses in the nation: of the seven counties (with 20,000 or more residents) that lost more than 10% of their population in the 1990s, four of them were in southern West Virginia.
The district – rated R+6 on the Cook PVI – has looked favorably at Republicans in recent years. In 2004, George Bush easily won with 53% of the vote. In 2008, John McCain handily defeated Barack Obama with 56% of the vote. This year, we think voters are again going to come out to support a Republican candidate: Spike Maynard. After securing his primary victory (which was made all the more impressive by the lackluster primary victory that Rahall earned), Maynard has campaigned effectively, earning him placement in the Young Guns program as an “On The Radar” candidate.