- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 9, 2018

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Three incumbent Republican state senators in West Virginia lost in primary contests on Tuesday, including one whose challenger was backed by the union for teachers who recently staged a successful walkout over pay.

On Tuesday, Delegate Bill Hamilton defeated Sen. Robert Karnes; Rollan Roberts ousted Sen. Lynne Arvon; and Eric Tarr beat Sen. Mark Drennan.

Karnes, an Upshur County lawmaker, was elected to a four-year Senate term in 2014. Arvon, of Raleigh County, and Drennan, from Putnam County, were appointed to fill Senate vacancies.

The West Virginia Education Association-Political Action Committee endorsed Hamilton, an Upshur County legislator who has supported labor unions and voted against the state’s “right-to-work” law.

Karnes has been an outspoken critic of unions and was a lead supporter of right-to-work. During a debate on that legislation, Karnes called a rowdy group of union members in the gallery “free riders.”



“The people who support right to work, they’re out working. The free-riders are right up there,” Karnes said, pointing at the union members in the crowd during the 2016 floor debate.

Karnes on Tuesday night claimed an influx of the “far left” voted against him in the primary. West Virginia allows independent voters to pick the Republican or Democratic ballot.

The West Virginia Education Association, meanwhile, thanked voters on Facebook, saying they “guaranteed one of the most anti-worker, anti-public education senators will not be returning next session.”

The November elections could show whether the political power of teachers in West Virginia will benefit Democrats. Teachers ultimately won a 5 percent pay increase after a nine-day strike, and their success ignited similar teacher walkouts in other states.

The GOP seeks to protect a 22-12 Senate majority and 64-36 lead in the House. Republicans clinched a majority in both houses of the West Virginia Legislature for the first time in about eight decades after the 2014 elections, and have kept legislative control since.

Eleven of 17 Senate seats on the ballot are currently Republican-held. Six Democratic races and six on the Republican side were contested Tuesday.

Christopher Toney knocked off Republican state Del. Chanda Adkins in one of the very few shake-ups in the House on Tuesday night, where all 100 seats are on the ballot, including 15 where a Republican lawmaker isn’t seeking re-election and four where a Democratic incumbent isn’t running again.

There are five House seats without a Democrat candidate running and two without a Republican.

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