Voters Approve 2 Constitutional Amendments
West Virginia voters have approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow lawmakers to restrict or outlaw state funding for Medicaid abortions.
The amendment approved Tuesday came after the Republican-led Legislature earlier this year approved a resolution to add a line to the state constitution that reads: "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion."
Opponents say it would put the issue in the hands of the Legislature, which could ban Medicaid-funded abortions in cases of rape, incest or when a woman or girl's health is at risk.
In 1993, the state Supreme Court struck down a Medicaid funding ban for abortions as unconstitutional.
West Virginia voters have also passed a proposed constitutional amendment to give lawmakers the option of reducing part of the state judiciary's annual budget.
The ballot measure approved Tuesday allows the Legislature to decide each year whether to reduce the courts' budget but not less than 85 percent of the previous year's budget. It also would require the Supreme Court's chief justice to answer budget questions before lawmakers.
Opponents have said limiting the Supreme Court's budgetary control would infringe on its independence. The chief justice currently has constitutional autonomy in deciding how the system spends a $139 million annual budget.
During an ongoing impeachment process, some of the justices were accused of abusing this authority by failing to rein in excessive spending.
Update 11:55 p.m.
Ihlenfeld Defeats Ferns in WV Senate Race
Democrat Bill Ihlenfeld has unseated West Virginia Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns.
Ihlenfeld is a former U.S. attorney for West Virginia's northern district who was endorsed by the West Virginia Federation of Teachers in his first run for political office.
Ferns is a Republican from Ohio County who came under scrutiny during a nine-day teachers strike last winter. At one point Ferns tabled a vote on whether state teachers deserved a 5 percent raise, which they eventually won.
The 35-year-old Ferns served two terms in the Senate.
Update 11:41 p.m.
Armstead Keeps Supreme Court Seat
Former state legislative leader Tim Armstead has won a crowded campaign to keep his seat on the West Virginia Supreme Court.
Armstead and another prominent Republican, ex-Congressman Evan Jenkins, were appointed by GOP Gov. Jim Justice to fill two seats on the state's highest court until Tuesday's election. Both Armstead and Jenkins prevailed and will complete the unexpired terms of two former justices caught up in a scandal over spending by the court.
Armstead — a former House of Delegates speaker — defeated seven attorneys and two circuit judges to complete the term of retired Justice Menis Ketchum. The term runs through 2020.
Judicial elections in West Virginia became nonpartisan in 2016, but the court's turmoil stirred political attacks. Some Democrats argued that the court's shakeup was a power grab by the Republican-led legislature.
Update 11 p.m.
Jenkins Keeps Supreme Court Seat
Ex-Congressman Evan Jenkins has been elected to keep the seat he was appointed to on the West Virginia Supreme Court.
Jenkins will complete the unexpired term of a former justice caught up in a broader scandal over spending by the court.
The former congressman defeated nine other candidates in Tuesday's election for the seat on West Virginia's highest court. They competed for the seat of retired Justice Robin Davis, whose term runs through 2024.
Jenkins and former West Virginia House of Delegates speaker Tim Armstead were appointed by Republican Gov. Jim Justice to fill two seats until Tuesday's election. Armstead was competing with nine other candidates to complete the term of retired Justice Menis Ketchum.
Mooney Keeps Seat
Republican U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney has won a third term in West Virginia's 2nd District.
Mooney defeated Democrat Talley Sergent in Tuesday's election. Sergent is a former Hillary Clinton state presidential campaign director in a state that Republican Donald Trump won in a landslide in 2016 as he ran for president.
Mooney is a former Maryland state senator and state GOP chairman who moved in 2013 about 25 miles from Frederick, Maryland, to Charles Town, West Virginia. He won the 2nd District race in 2014 when seven-term incumbent Republican Shelley Moore Capito won a U.S. Senate seat.
Sergent ran for Congress to fight the opioid epidemic. Her mother has adopted an 11-year-old granddaughter whose mother — Sergent's sister — is a drug addict.
The district stretches 300 miles from the Ohio River to the Eastern Panhandle.
Update 10 p.m.
Manchin Re-Elected, Miller Defeats Ojeda
Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia has turned back a challenge by Republican Patrick Morrisey to win his second full-term in the U.S. Senate in a state carried by President Donald Trump.
Manchin survived the most difficult re-election campaign of his career against the comparative newcomer Morrisey. Manchin is a former governor who has held elected office in West Virginia for the better part of three decades.
Manchin heavily outspent Morrisey and portrayed himself as loyal to his home state rather than party ideology. Manchin was the only Senate Democrat to vote to confirm U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Manchin was critical of Morrisey's New Jersey roots and his past lobbying ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
Morrisey is a two-term state attorney general and a staunch Trump supporter.
Republican state lawmaker Carol Miller has won a congressional seat in West Virginia, holding off a strong Democratic challenge in a district Donald Trump dominated two years ago.
Miller defeated Democratic state Sen. Richard Ojeda in Tuesday's 3rd District election. Incumbent Republican Evan Jenkins gave up the House seat for an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate. He then was appointed to fill a state Supreme Court seat.
Miller becomes the third woman from West Virginia elected to Congress, where her father also served from Ohio.
He has served in the state House of Delegates since 2007 and is a bison farmer and small-business owner.
She received an endorsement from Trump, who cited her support of coal and gun rights. Trump won the district by nearly 50 percentage points in winning the presidency in 2016.
Update 9:16 p.m.
McKinley Retains House Seat
Republican U.S. Rep. David McKinley has won a fifth term to represent West Virginia's 1st District.
McKinley defeated Democrat Kendra Fershee in Tuesday's election.
McKinley has represented the northern West Virginia district since 2011.
The 71-year-old McKinley touted his background as a professional engineer and seventh-generation West Virginian, and efforts to protect jobs and health care for state residents.
Campaign finance records show McKinley outraised Fershee by a 5-to-1 margin.
Fershee is a West Virginia University law professor and associate dean of academic affairs. The first-time candidate and Michigan native said she was turned off by Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump in the 2016 campaign as well as the voting record of McKinley. She said voters want someone in Congress who "is just like them."
Update 6:10 p.m.
A majority of voters casting midterm election ballots in West Virginia said the country is headed in the right direction, according to a wide-ranging survey of the American electorate.
As voters cast ballots for U.S. Senate and members of Congress in Tuesday’s elections, AP VoteCast found that 6 in 10 West Virginia voters said the country is on the right track, compared with 4 in 10 who said the country is headed in the wrong direction.
Click here for a snapshot of who voted and why in West Virginia, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast.
Update 5:20 p.m.
Logan County Voter Reaction
For some, like Nick Farrell, it feels like there’s a lot at stake in this midterm election. Farrell is 40, a married father of two and a City of Logan firefighter.
“This election, to me, is probably one of the biggest of my lifetime so far. It’s not just about me, it’s about my community, my kids, my family,” he said. “Logan County is just hurting. The state of West Virginia is hurting. … We have coal, that’s all we have.”
Farrell plans to switch his party from Democrat to Republican. He was among those voting Tuesday at Logan Middle School who said they were supporting conservative candidates they hope will protect coal jobs and improve the lives of southern West Virginia families.
The county is home to state Sen. Richard Ojeda, who’s running against Republican Carol Miller in one of the most closely watched races this election cycle, the 3rd House District.
Some voters here said they backed Miller over Ojeda because of her business experience and her support from President Donald Trump. Some said they just didn’t like Ojeda. Farrell and others said they voted both for Miller and Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who’s running for U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin.
Caleb Bridges, a 26-year-old Republican, said the Senate race was a tougher decision for him than the 3rd House District.
“I’m actually not a fan for either Morrisey or Manchin. In the end, I voted for Morrisey because I want more Republican control than Democrat control,” said Bridges, who’s the assistant manager at a local gas station.
Bridges came out to support his brother, Jordan Bridges, who’s running for a state House of Delegates seat. But he was also eager to vote for Carol Miller.
“I would have voted for a rock before I voted for Richard Ojeda,” he said.
He wants those he supported to focus on a few keys issues: “I’m against abortion, that’s one of them. Pro-coal. I also want more diversification of jobs. And the opioid epidemic does need addressed … There’s no end to it. It keeps getting worse.”
For his part, Kevin Ellis, 50, wavered between Miller and Ojeda. He works as a driver taking people to medical appointments, and two of his kids work in the school system.
“He did support the teachers for teacher pay raise, so that was kind of my issue of going with Ojeda,” he said.
Update 4:55 p.m.
Teachers Strike Still on Public Employees' Minds
Following a nine-day statewide teacher strike earlier this year that spawned a national movement, educators and school service personnel across West Virginia are hoping to capitalize on that momentum on election night.
American Federation of Teachers- West Virginia president Christine Campbell said the Republican-led Legislature has tried to take credit for a pay increase for teachers and all other state employees -- as well as a temporary fix to the healthcare program for public workers.
But, she said teachers and others who rallied at the Capitol are taking issue with that narrative as they head to the polls Tuesday.
During and following the strike, public educators used the phrase “Remember in November,” but the question remains, will it translate into votes as the results come in.
“They know exactly what happened. They know how it happened and they know why it happened and they stood up, they deserve the credit and as out what I hope comes out of this is that our elected officials will continue to listen to the experts -- and do the right thing for public education and our students and communities,” Campbell said.
Campbell said she’s seen an increase in activism and other civic engagement from members of her union throughout 2018.
Daniel Summers joined a few fellow teachers and public service workers in rallying motorists along Cheat Road in Morgantown on Tuesday. He works at University High School and said teachers still have a clear message for lawmakers.
“We wanted our elected officials to know that we remembered who stood with us and against us when we had the teacher walkout, so we thought it would be a good idea to put some teachers around the town on their old picket lines,” Summers said.
He said teachers were also collecting donations for an after-school food program in Monongalia County while they are out on the old picket lines.
Campbell said teachers have been educating themselves on candidates and issues as they went to vote in the midterms.
More than a dozen current and former West Virginia public educators are on the ballot this election -- nearly split between Republicans and Democrats. They all filed to run for office before the strike began in late February.
Update 2:30 p.m.
Weather Affects Some Polling Sites
Storms that swept through West Virginia early Tuesday caused two voting precincts to open a little late but didn’t cause any lasting problems.
West Virginia Secretary of State’s spokesman Michael Queen told the Associated Press that 14 precincts were without power at 5 a.m., but the office worked with several state and local agencies to put generators into place or to move precinct locations. He said polling places without power used generators until electricity was restored so no paper ballots were necessary.
Queen said all 14 precincts are up and running and described voting Tuesday morning as “brisk.”
West Virginians vote in Trump stronghold
From the Associated Press:
President Donald Trump’s agenda is high on the minds of West Virginia voters.
Joseph Hall works for the city of Clarksburg during the week and in the natural gas industry on the weekends. Hall says he likes the president’s job performance and wants to “support him as best as I can” at the polling place.
By contrast, retired state lawmaker Larry Linch said after casting his early ballot last week in Clarksburg that Trump was “a national embarrassment.” Linch says Trump played a part in his voting decisions. Linch is a lifelong Democrat who says Trump’s immigration policies were a part of the reason why he didn’t vote for a single Republican.