CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Huntington Mayor Steve Williams is the first well-known Democrat to line-up for a statewide race in West Virginia next year. But many wonder if any Democrat can win in such a red state?
Senator Joe Manchin is the only Democrat left who holds a statewide office in West Virginia, but can fellow Democrat Steve Williams shake that stigma?
Republican Governor Jim Justice won a second term in office with a landslide victory in 2020. Republicans now hold a super majority in both chambers of the legislature and hold all six constitutional offices. So, can Democrats win any of the big races, including governor? Well Republicans hold a slight lead in voter registration at 38%, to 35% for Democrats. The remaining 27% are mostly independents.
One thing that may help Democrats, is a crowded Republican field with at least six running for governor, with Steve Williams the lone major Democrat.
“If you get a far-right Republican nominated, as opposed to a more moderate, then I think you have a replay of the Joe Manchin-Patrick Morrisey race for the U.S. Senate a couple of years ago. But a moderate Democrat like Steve becomes more viable,” said former Delegate Tom Susman, now a political analyst on WMOV Radio.
Susman, says unlike most candidates, Williams has been a chief executive.
“A mayor has executive experience and I feel that will – what he’s been able to accomplish in Huntington, I mean – when he came into office the town was basically bankrupt, people thought they were going to go into receivership. And he and the city council and the folks down there have pulled together and really turned that city around,” Susman added.
While most of Steve Williams’s 20 years in politics were in Cabell County, he’s been at the forefront of fighting the statewide opioid epidemic for the past decade. And that could help his name recognition among voters, across the state.
One item that could potentially hurt Democrats in West Virginia in 2024, is the presidential race.
In 2016 and 2020, Donald Trump carried the Mountain State with 69% of the vote, and that type of lead can hurt the opposing party in other races down the ballot.