By Jim Ellis
May 12, 2016 — Though his presidential campaign opponents have dropped out of the race, it was still a point of curiosity to examine Donald Trump’s recorded percentages in the last two Tuesday primaries.
It was a foregone conclusion that he would win West Virginia – he’s done very well in coal country, and this state is in many ways the industry’s home – but Nebraska is likely a state that would have voted for Sen. Ted Cruz had the contested campaign continued.
True to form, Trump broke 75 percent of the vote in West Virginia and topped 60 percent in Nebraska. This suggests that many establishment Republicans coming out against him during the past week had little effect on the individuals voting in these two primaries.
Though Hillary Clinton remains the presumed Democratic nominee, she lost yet another primary. After she spoke out earlier about shutting down the coal industry — something that wouldn’t go over well in West Virginia — it was expected she would falter in the Mountain State. She did. True to form, Sen. Bernie Sanders beat her 51-36 percent. However, Clinton did manage to place first in the Nebraska primary, a beauty contest for Democrats since the delegates were apportioned weeks ago.
Adding the Democratic Super Delegates to the total, though, Clinton could still leave West Virginia with one more delegate vote than Sen. Sanders. Going into the final 13 Democratic nomination contests, Clinton needs only 16.5 percent of the outstanding delegates to officially clinch the nomination.
Aside from the presidential primary, there was one congressional contest of note. Despite the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee actually spending over $400,000 in ads to help Republican Chip Maxwell -– because they thought he would be easier to beat in the general election — retired Air Force General Don Bacon won a crushing victory in the Republican primary. He took 67 percent of the vote over Maxwell, an obvious testament to the Democrats’ failed strategy of attempting to influence a GOP primary.
Gen. Maxwell will now face freshman Rep. Brad Ashford (D) in the general election. Ashford was one of only two Democrats to unseat a Republican incumbent in 2014, and Bacon’s chances of turning the table on the new incumbent are good. Omaha’s 2nd District tends to sway more consistently toward Republicans, though President Obama did carry the district in his 2008 national election.
The Mountain State featured several races last night in addition to their presidential primaries. In the governor’s race, coal and resort magnate Jim Justice who, at a publicly declared $1.6 billion in personal wealth, is said to be West Virginia’s richest man.
Justice is now the official Democratic nominee for governor, as he garnered 50 percent of the party vote versus 26 percent for former US Attorney Booth Goodwin, while state Senate Minority Leader and ex-gubernatorial candidate Jeff Kessler received 24 percent. Late polling found Justice leading but by what appeared to be a tight margin. In the end, the only closeness in the final result was the spread between Goodwin and Kessler.
Justice now advances to face Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Cole, the West Virginia state Senate president who was unopposed in the GOP primary. The general election is expected to be close. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.
In the lone congressional district with primaries, freshman GOP Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV-2) decisively outdistanced his minor challenger, 72-28 percent, to win re-nomination. But the Democratic side was anything but easy. Here, former state Delegate Mark Hunt barely topped Army veteran Cory Simpson, 29-27 percent. He will now challenge Rep. Mooney in what is a potentially competitive 2nd District November race.