- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 4, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia voters headed to the polls Tuesday to decide races for the U.S. Senate, the state’s three congressional districts, the entire state House of Delegates and half the state Senate. Here is a summary of things to know on Election Day.

SENATE HISTORY

Republican Shelley Moore Capito and Democrat Natalie Tennant face off in a high-profile U.S. Senate contest. Democratic U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller is retiring after almost three decades in the seat.

A win by either of the two major party candidates will make history. West Virginia has never sent a woman to the U.S. Senate.

In a traditionally Democratic state veering right, Capito is favored in the race. The seven-term congresswoman would be the first Republican senator from the Mountain State in 55 years.



Much of the campaign conversation has steered toward President Barack Obama and coal.

Both Capito and Tennant vehemently opposed a federal push to curb carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. Appalachian coal mining advocates fear the anti-global warming push would cripple their industry, which already is shrinking amid market, geological and regulatory hindrances.

Tennant pledged to buck the president on energy, gun rights and other issues.

Capito constantly tied Tennant to the president, referencing Tennant’s support for Obama’s election in 2008 and 2012. The president lost all 55 counties in West Virginia in 2012.

Others on the Senate ballot include: Bob Henry Baber of the Mountain Party, Libertarian John Buckley and Phil Hudok of the Constitution Party.

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SOUTHERN COALFIELDS CONTEST

Democratic U.S. Rep Nick Rahall, who has represented the southern coalfields in Congress for almost four decades, faces a stiff re-election test in the 3rd Congressional District.

The 19-term incumbent is West Virginia’s last Democratic member in the House. He faces Democrat-turned-Republican Evan Jenkins in a race saturated by millions of dollars in outside spending. The billionaire Koch brothers fueled TV attack ads against Rahall, while the Democratic House Majority PAC likewise criticized Jenkins.

Rahall’s seat is no longer a Democratic stronghold. In 2012, Obama lost all 55 counties in West Virginia, with Rahall’s district rebuking Obama the most. Mitt Romney trounced Obama by 32 percentage points there.

Rahall, who supported the president’s election twice, still pulled off an 8-point win in 2012.

Third District voters fear Obama’s carbon emission proposal will plunge a dagger in the region’s struggling coalfields. Jenkins tied Rahall to Obama and Washington, D.C., Democrats as much as possible, particularly on coal.

Rahall says he has fought the Obama administration on coal issues. He labeled Jenkins an opportunist beholden to wealthy conservative backers like the Kochs.

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REPLACING CAPITO

With Capito running for the Senate, two former state party chairmen are the main contenders for her open congressional seat.

Nick Casey is a Charleston lawyer, a former lobbyist for groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and former state Democratic Party chairman.

Alex Mooney moved to West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle from nearby Frederick, Maryland, last summer. There, he served as a Maryland state senator and Republican Party chairman.

The 2nd Congressional District spans more than 300 miles from the Ohio River to the Eastern Panhandle. It includes the state’s capital and traditional power hub, Charleston; and the growing panhandle, a bedroom community for Washington, D.C. commuters.

Like Tennant and Rahall, Casey is running as a moderate Democrat who doesn’t favor Obama’s energy policies. Mooney, who has support from tea party groups, points out Casey’s support of Obama as party chairman.

Both parties think they can seal a win in the seat. For Casey, a win would mean flipping a Republican seat in a difficult midterm election where the GOP expects to extend its U.S. House majority.

Others on the ballot include Independent Ed Rabel and Libertarian Davy Jones.

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STATEHOUSE SWING?

The tough political climate for West Virginia Democrats could trickle down the ballot to the statehouse.

Democrats have maintained a majority in the state House of Delegates about 85 years. With all 100 seats on the ballot, Republicans need a net gain of only four seats Tuesday to take over the lower chamber.

Republicans are sticking with the same message they’re using in the federal races. They contend state Democrats are carbon copies of Obama and national Democratic leaders.

West Virginia Democrats argue they are their own brand, pointing out high marks from firearms rights groups, pro-life votes and efforts to cut several taxes in recent years.

State legislative candidates have shelled out more than $4 million for the election, while outside groups have spent more than $2.3 million on mailers, radio spots, TV ads and other messaging.

Democrats have a 24-10 edge in the Senate, but Republicans are looking to cut the lead in a few races. Half of the chamber is up for re-election.

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