PARKERSBURG The state chairman of the Republican Party has dispelled reports he was running for governor.
Mike Stuart, elected party chairman last year, said his work was not finished.
"Although I am humbled by the encouragement of so many supporters across the state, I do not intend to be a candidate for governor this year," Stuart said.
A special general election will be held this year for the unexpired term, but yet to be decided by the Legislature is whether there will be a convention similar to the way party presidential delegates were chosen or there will be a primary election. The situation was caused when Joe Manchin was elected to the unexpired term in the U.S. Senate.
The possibility of holding a convention to choose party nominees for governor is the prime reason why it's a bad idea for Stuart to run for governor, said Rocky Peck, a former chairman of the Wood County Republican Party who participated in the 2008 presidential convention.
Stuart, as chairman of the state party, is responsible for organizing the convention and would has a candidate be organizing his own election.
"That's the biggest problem right there," he said.
Stuart said his focus upon building the party and electing a Republican governor. However, he's leaving options open for 2012 when the next general election is scheduled.
"While I will not be a candidate for statewide office in 2011, I intend to evaluate statewide and federal opportunities in 2012 at the appropriate time with my family, friends and supporters," Stuart said. "I am leaving every opportunity open."
As president of the state Senate, Earl Ray Tomblin became acting governor when Manchin became a senator. Tomblin, citing state code that said the special election for the unexpired term of governor can be held in 2012, didn't intend to call a special election until the state Supreme Court ruled an election shall be held this year.
Based on name recognition, Tomblin and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant are early frontrunners for the Democratic Party nomination, according to recent surveys by Public Policy Polling. Former Secretary of State Betty Ireland is the overwhelming favorite for the Republicans, unless Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., runs, Public Policy Polling said.
Capito has said she intends to serve her full term in the House of Representatives.
"I am pleased with Mike Stuart's decision to remain focused as the chairman of the Republican State Party where he will continue to lead the party forward," Ireland told the newspaper.
Stuart was favored by only 4 percent of survey respondents. He was elected party chairman in July and replaced Doug McKinney.