Workman's primary showing impressive, analyst says

Chris Dickerson May 15, 2008, 12:30pm


CHARLESTON, W. Va. (Legal Newsline) - One West Virginia political observer says Margaret Workman should feel especially good about her strong showing in the Democratic primary race for Supreme Court.

Mark Blankenship, president and CEO of MBE, a public opinion research and communications counseling firm based in Charleston, said Workman received support everywhere in the state.

"Workman's strong showing will position her well for the general election," Blankenship said. "Because she had such a wide margin of victory over everyone else, you almost have to separate her from the others.

"If there is a mandate, Workman holds that right now."

Thus, Blankenship said, the real race likely will be between Menis Ketchum and Beth Walker for the second of two open seats.

"And what you have there is a trial lawyer from Huntington against a conservative defense attorney from Charleston," Blankenship said. "Beth has to prove herself to Democrats who didn't vote for Ketchum in primary. And Ketchum has to do that and position himself a broader audience of West Virginians.

"Plus, he is going to have to answer questions about his experience, qualification and ideologies."

Blankenship said the race is shaping up to be similar to the 2004 Supreme Court race when Warren McGraw defeated Jim Rowe in the Democratic primary, but the incumbent McGraw lost to Republican Brent Benjamin in the general election.

"You have a viable Republican candidate who can't be discounted," Blankenship said. "And the numbers Rowe got in the 2004 primary and Maynard are startlingly similar."

Blankenship said he wonders if incumbent Justice Spike Maynard's defeat is a sign of things ahead.

"Is this the beginning of a trend where conservative judicial candidates can't make it out of a Democratic primary?" Blankenship said. "Plus, you have to wonder how much did the Don Blankenship issue impact Maynard? In pockets of the state, it clearly did because a third of the undecided vote broke toward Workman, another third toward Ketchum and the rest was split between Maynard and Bastress."

Blankenship said the margin by which Maynard trailed Ketchum for the second Democratic nomination was a little surprising to him.

"He (Maynard) didn't drive up the margin in his home county," Blankenship said, mentioning Mingo County. "Ketchum did that in his home county of Cabell."

As for the race for Attorney General, Blankenship said Republican nominee Dan Greear had an impressive showing. He'll face incumbent Democrat Darrell McGraw in November.

"Greear had a strong showing against a known entity in Hiram Lewis," Blankenship said, mentioning how Lewis nearly defeated McGraw in 2004. "Lewis is very active among the grassroots party regulars. So Greear had a very strong victory. Then, you have to think about it and project that out to the general election where McGraw has not been very strong in his last two general election campaigns."

Noting McGraw's incumbency and name recognition, Blankenship said Greear has a battle ahead of him.

"McGraw has narrowly won the seat in the last two general elections," he said. "He should have had a higher margin in both elections. So this could be an interesting race.

"Depending on the level of organization Greear can develop and the funds he can raise, he could be at least as competitive."

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