Monday, January 23, 2006

4th District State Senate Race: Craigo Out, Hall In

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Delegate Mike HallAs we enter the final week of West Virginia's 2006 election filing period, the GOP's most vulnerable state Senate seat becomes much more secure with the announcements that former Senate Finance Committee Chairman Oshel Craigo, D-Putnam, will not run and that Delegate Mike Hall, R-Putnam, will enter the race.

This seat is currently held by Senator Charles Lanham, R-Mason, who was appointed just over a year ago to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former Senator Lisa Smith, R-Putnam, who defeated Craigo in 2002 and was indicted last week on federal tax evasion charges. Lanham had been considered by many to be a Republican in name only and a very weak politician who would have likely not been reelected. Three-time gubernatorial candidate Jim Lees is the only major Democrat to file in this race and will likely be the Democratic nominee.

Delegate Hall's entry in this race shifts the prospects for this Senate seat from tossup to likely Republican retention. Hall, a 6-term delegate representing the portions of Putnam and Mason counties west of the Kanawha River, is well-liked by people across the political spectrum and is well-respected in the Legislature. Prior to his entry in the Senate race, Hall was the ranking Republican on the House Finance Committee and was considering a bid for House Republican leader to succeed retiring Delegate Charles Trump, R-Morgan.

Jim Lees, whose politics have varied from campaign to campaign, is pro-gun control--the most politically suicidal issue one can possibly support in West Virginia; if you doubt this, just ask President Al Gore or President John Kerry. Strike two: Lees is considered hostile to organized labor--the only major Democratic constituency in the 4th Senate District and without whose enthusiastic support a Democratic nominee has little hope of winning in this Republican-leaning senatorial district.