The upcoming senate race in West Virginia has drawn a big crowd of Republican contenders who are vying to face off on May 8 in the primary races. They're competing for the Senate seat currently held by Joe Manchin, the long standing Democratic incumbent. A group of college students in a political science course at West Virginia Wesleyan College recently made their predictions for which Republicans they think will come out ahead in the primary senate race.
“We think it’s gonna be a really close race, mostly between Jenkins and Morrisey,” said 21-year-old Fairmont native, Hannah McCoy. She worked with a team of fellow students to research the senate race. Their final assignment is to predict which candidates will come out ahead.
“The polls aren’t very consistent right now. But what is consistent is there’s a lot of undecided voters. There’s at least 20 percent undecided voters in all five polls that we looked at.”
The paper McCoy and her classmates wrote is for a political science class, taught by political analyst Robert Rupp. They explored voting habits of West Virginians, and how social issues affect politics in the state.
Baltimore-native Katie Kennedy observed how politics in West Virginia play out very differently than what she’s seen in Maryland.
“We learned about the idea of personalism," Kennedy said, "and how West Virginians don’t really rely on your credentials or your background in politics. They rely on the word of one another.”
“Family is another value that we looked at in West Virginia, and Jenkins highlights his wife and kids in all of his ads,” she added.
The students also considered how current events might affect voters this year.
“It’s really gonna come down to West Virginia values, the drug epidemic, and the West Virginia teachers’ strike, where Morrisey said that he would help to arrest the teachers and Jenkins publicly supported them. We think that will be a game changer between the two,” said McCoy.
This first group of students, made up entirely of young women, predicts that Jenkins will come out first, Morrisey second. The second group, comprised solely of young men, predicts that Don Blankenship will actually come in ahead of Morrisey.
“He flooded a lot of money into his campaign. He has a good campaign manager that’s well received in the state of West Virginia,” said Tyler Broadwater, one of the students in the all-male group. “And he has a lot of his own financial resources to put into the campaign.”
Broadwater’s team agree with the first group that Jenkins will likely win the primary. But they think Blankenship has gained a good bit of ground in the last few weeks.
“Initially we started out looking at different polls. And we initially found out that there weren’t a lot of polls that were done. And then, there were even fewer polls that were being done by nonpartisan groups. For example, we saw some polls that showed Jenkins highly favored, early on. But the polls that had Jenkins significantly ahead, we did a little bit of research and found that the polls that were being done were sponsored by Jenkins’ backers.”
This group also looked at how the Teachers’ Strike might influence this race, said Lawrence Rebelo. “Because even though they were supporting the Democratic party, this is still Trump Country. So they may vote for some Dems, but when it comes down to it, I think they’ll vote for Jenkins. Maybe, half of them, at least.”
Rebelo, who grew up in Preston County, admits that he’s a strong Democrat. But he was surprised to learn some things about the Republican candidates, including that Jenkins publicly supported the teachers.
His classmate, Broadwater, said the project has made him realize how important it is to do research before deciding how to cast your vote.
“I think this class has taught us a little bit about, not being skeptical, but understanding where the information’s coming from. And especially who pays for that information.”