PARKERSBURG - Half the people running for the U.S. Senate seat from which Jay Rockefeller is retiring call Wood County home.
And although they aren't the most recognizable names or the biggest fundraisers in the race, they believe they have a shot at upsetting the frontrunners - Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, and West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, a Democrat.
"It's a very uphill battle," admitted Matthew Dodrill, a 35-year-old old real estate investor with his family-owned business, LSEMD LLC. "She's (Capito) been campaigning for over two years. ... I feel that I could do equally a good job or better."
In addition to Dodrill and Capito, Washington, W.Va., resident Larry Butcher is seeking the GOP nomination. Butcher, 62, has run for several offices since the 1980s, starting when state Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette was president of the state Senate.
"All I can do is rage against the storm," Butcher said.
There are also three Democrats seeking their party's nomination in the May 13 primary. In addition to Tennant and Buckhannon resident Dennis Melton, David Wamsley, a 64-year-old school psychologist and real estate investor from Williamstown, is on the ballot.
Candidates At A Glance
Larry Butcher (R)
* Age: 62
* Residence: Washington, W.Va.
* Past offices: ran for governor, West Virginia State Senate
Matthew Dodrill (R)
* Age: 35
* Residence: Parkersburg
* Occupation: real estate investor for a family-owned company
* Family: Parents, Lynn and Sue Ellen Dodrill
* Past offices: first run
David Wamsley (D)
* Age: 64
* Residence: Williamstown
* Occupation: school psychologist, real estate investor
* Family: wife, Brenda; two adult daughters; two grandchildren
* Past offices: first run
As Wamsley travels to work with school districts in different parts of the state and campaigns, he's trying to convince voters he is the candidate with the best shot at defeating Capito, a seven-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
"Natalie Tennant cannot beat Shelley Moore Capito. I can," Wamsley said. "I have a real message and a real plan to counter the Republican agenda for the state and nation."
That plan includes free health care - but not socialized medicine, he's quick to point out. He proposes a tax of 50 cents on every $100 spent on stocks and securities and real estate transactions beyond a first and second home. Health care costs would decrease, he said, as providers wouldn't have to try to make up for unpaid services, and the prices of other goods and services would go down as well.
Wamsley said he also supports passing a Substance Abuse Treatment Act to provide three levels of treatment and create jobs in the process, reducing foreign aid and keeping the military out of foreign countries in most cases.
"We should be able to resolve conflicts through diplomacy and technology," he said.
Asked why he would seek a U.S. Senate seat in his first run for public office, Wamsley said he figured his odds weren't good to win at the state or local level.
"Most of my neighbors and friends are Republicans, and I'm a Democrat," he said. "I would have no chance to win House of Delegates or state senator where I live. ... Oddly enough, I have a better chance to win a United State Senate seat than I do county commissioner."
Dodrill is also aiming high in his first campaign. He acknowledged some people see the logical path as starting out at the local level, gaining experience and moving on to higher office.
"In doing that, I find a lot of people become indoctrinated to the political machine," he said. "They become more servants to the people with the money."
Dodrill has been trying to spread his message online, as well as speaking with Rotary Clubs, Tea Party groups and other organizations around the state.
He said he's challenging Capito because he wants to give voters a choice.
"I don't feel that Mrs. Capito always represents the citizens of West Virginia as opposed to the corporations," Dodrill said.
Dodrill said he favors exploration and development of alternative energy sources like wind and biofuels but sees no need to close the door on coal when those other resources cannot sustain the nation's energy needs.
"That's a progression. You don't just cut everything off," he said.
Dodrill also has concerns about the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows indefinite military detention, and the Common Core curriculum standards, which states were required to adopt in order to receive Race to the Top education funds.
"It's just another power grab ... 'Well, you took the money; now you have to do it our way,'" he said, comparing such a system to "gangster" tactics.
Dodrill favors a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act, noting he "was one of the 6 million people who received a cancellation letter" for his insurance policy as a result of the law.
Butcher lives on Eli Locust Road in the Washington area, multiple American flags adorning the trees and van on the site, which does not have a house. He promises he will not serve in office longer than the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, who was the longest serving senator in history.
Butcher said he was prompted to run by Rockefeller's announcement he would not seek re-election. Rockefeller has a genuine interest for the public good, Butcher said.
"I would never have filed against him," he said.
He also admires Ken Hechler, a former Congressman and secretary of state from West Virginia, who Butcher called a "servant of the people."