Salena Zito

This state’s politics has created an awkward situation for Democrats. Not only has the Senate race emerged as a possible problem but so have those for two of the state’s three U.S. House seats. All of the Democrats’ national committees are spending money here in a year in which they are spread thin by a discontented, disconnected electorate.

West Virginia’s First Congressional District saw longtime Rep. Alan Mollohan defeated in a primary by fellow Democrat and state senator Mike Oliverio. Republican David McKinley ran a strong primary campaign and presents a solid opportunity for a GOP gain in a district that McCain carried with 57 percent of the vote in 2008.

Little attention was paid to the Third District’s race until news that longtime Rep. Nick Rahall, a Democrat, used congressional stationery to ask a judge for leniency for his son in a 2005 robbery case. GOP candidate Spike Maynard may capitalize on that but also is making a case that Rahall has not done enough to stop the Obama administration’s “War on Coal.”

Chuck Wheeler is a former Capitol Hill Democratic staffer who owns Berkeley Springs’ Fairfax Coffeehouse and Mt. Laurel Gallery, an upscale boutique specializing in jewelry, artwork and clothing by American craftsman.

Wheeler thinks Manchin has no problem, probably because Wheeler has no Manchin problem. He says the stimulus package did a great job but admits the economy is bad and so is business. He says he loves the health-care bill but admits he has no idea what’s in it or if his employees will benefit from it.

Frustrated by his own admissions as he walks through his beautiful but very-empty gallery, Wheeler says, “Well, I think a lot of the reason why people don’t like Obama is racism.”

Later, in his coffee shop, he wonders if that is the real reason.


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.