PARKERSBURG - West Virginia Democratic voters made it very clear they wanted change in their 1st Congressional District representation Tuesday. Longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., was overwhelming voted out of office after a 28-year reign.
While the results may not have stunned many political observers, Mike Oliverio, who upended Mollohan, said the results came as a shock.
"He was a 28-year incumbent. This is an upset," Oliverio said. "We are very pleased with the response we received from voters along the Ohio River."
West Virginia 1st Congressional District Democratic candidate Mike Oliverio, left, and supporter Sandy Bigelow, open the doors to Oliverio’s campaign headquarters in Morgantown Tuesday to welcome supporters. Oliverio defeated longtime Congressman Alan Mollohan in the primary.
With a growing number of Americans dissatisfied with the state of the economy, health care and the recent cap and trade debate, incumbents seemed ripe for an upset. As the race drew to a close, both campaigns were claiming eight to nine point leads for their respective candidate.
Oliverio, who launched his campaign 101 days ago with a stop in Wood County, captured almost 60 percent of the vote in the Wood County Democratic primary. Oliverio got more than 3,400 votes in Wood County, compared to 2,384 for Mollohan.
Oliverio's county vote totals were slightly higher than the overall results throughout the district. Statewide, with 96 precincts reporting, Oliverio garnered 56 percent of the vote (35,125) compared to 44 percent for Mollohan (27,487).
"Our polling consistently showed us ahead, but never by this amount," Oliverio said. And we are grateful to the voters who gave us this opportunity."
Attempts to contact the Mollohan campaign for comment were unsuccessful.
The 2010 election marked Mollohan's first legitimate challenge to his Congressional seat since 1992 when redistricting efforts pitted him against 2nd District Rep. Harley Staggers, D-W.Va.
The congressman ran a relatively lethargic campaign until recently, when he began airing TV ads calling Oliverio dangerously conservative and bad for business and labor. Oliverio, in contrast, campaigned aggressively since entering the race in January.
Oliverio will face Republican David McKinley in the November election.
McKinley emerged from a bog of GOP candidates, claiming about 35 percent of the 1st District vote. He downed Mac Warner by about 3,500 votes. Sarah Minear finished third with 21 percent (8,428). Tom Stark, Patricia Vangilder Levenson and Cindy Hall netted less than 10 percent each.
"We are just delighted," McKinley said. "Voters wanted to see a change made. ... I am honored to be their candidate."
Mac Warner, a businessman from Morgantown, thanked voters, but is now throwing his support to McKinley.
"David and I ran spirited and aggressive campaigns, but at the end of the day his strength in his home county of Ohio was too much to overcome across the rest of the district," said Warner.
McKinley wasted no time setting the stage for November.
"Clearly, what it will be about in the fall is a referendum on (President) Obama. Is this what the people wanted?" he said.
Oliverio said he would continue to visit the Mid-Ohio Valley to retain voters' support.
"We are going to come back again and again and earn their vote of confidence and serve them with integrity as we promised."
Oliverio, a Morgantown insurance agent and a state senator since 1994, said he has only a short time to celebrate. He has to report to Charleston for the Legislature's special session, which begins Thursday.