- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Republican victories in West Virginia’s U.S. House and Senate races knocked history on its side.

With wins Tuesday by Alex Mooney, Evan Jenkins and incumbent David McKinley, the GOP will hold every U.S. House from West Virginia for the first time since Warren Harding’s presidency in 1921.

Coupled with Shelley Moore Capito’s win in the U.S. Senate race, Republicans will occupy four of West Virginia’s five seats in the Senate and U.S. House and leave U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin as the only Democrat.

“You can see how this state is in transition,” said Robert Rupp, a West Virginia Wesleyan political science professor.

The GOP hasn’t held a majority of the state’s congressional delegation since 1947, when four of six congressmen and one of two U.S. senators were Republicans.

Capito became the first Republican to win a U.S. Senate seat from West Virginia since 1957. She beat Secretary of State Natalie Tennant to take over for retiring Democrat Jay Rockefeller.

In 2000, Capito was the state’s lone Republican in Congress when she won election to the U.S. House.

In January, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin will be the only Democrat.

“Can you believe that, in anyone’s imagination, they thought that would ever happen in West Virginia?” Manchin said Wednesday. “But things change.”

While the needs of specific regions of the state are vastly different, voters sent a message against President Barack Obama’s proposed environmental rules, including those on coal-fired power plants that spawned fears it could further cripple Appalachia’s already-dwindling fossil fuel industry.

“The Democrats had an uphill struggle because of the liability of a very, very unpopular president,” Rupp said.

Mooney’s victory over former state Democratic Party chairman Nick Casey comes on the heels of the 2012 election of Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Jefferson County resident who moved to the state in 2006.

Mooney was a Maryland state senator for more than a decade and served as that state’s Republican Party chairman before taking up residence in Charles Town last year.

The three-county Eastern Panhandle is the state’s fastest growing region with a population boost of 58 percent over the past two decades.

Mooney’s win “fits into the importance of the Eastern Panhandle and the fact we’re willing to accept outsiders,” Rupp said.

Sending first-term Republicans to the U.S. House and breaking in a new U.S. senator could come at a cost where seniority matters.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, a 19-term incumbent who lost to Jenkins in the 3rd District race, was the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Rockefeller held positions on numerous Senate subcommittees and chaired the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Infrastructure upgrades are considered a sore need in West Virginia, something the late Robert C. Byrd made common during his four-decade run in the Senate.

“The days of projects are numbered, if not over,” Rupp said. “If this had happened 20 years ago when Byrd actually could deliver and Congress was ready to give to him, it might have mattered. But maybe seniority is highly overrated when Congress is against pork and projects.”

Rep. David McKinley, who won re-election Tuesday in the 1st District over Democratic state auditor Glen Gainer, said West Virginia’s infrastructure problems didn’t go away with Rahall’s presence on the transportation committee.

“If we weren’t able to do it under Nick’s leadership, give us a chance to with some new blood, some new people,” McKinley said. “I think now with having such a strong majority, I think we’re going to be able to have a more vibrant highway infrastructure program.”

McKinley predicted that the new-look congressional delegation could bring a better coordination of initiatives that involve state government.

“We should be working together,” McKinley said. “I think the public wants that. Now I think we’ll have more of an opportunity to fulfill that vision.”


Associated Press writer Jonathan Mattise contributed to this report.

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