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State of the Races: Governor 2016

Competitive chief executive races on the ballot in North Carolina, West Virginia

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

southern states sm(CFP) — In 2016, just two Southern states will be holding races for governor, and the races in both North Carolina and West Virginia are expected to be close, hard-fought affairs.

Heading into the election, Republicans hold 11 of 14 governorships in the South, in all but Louisiana, Virginia and West Virginia.

Here are this year’s races:





North Carolina: Incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is running for a second term against the Tar Heel State’s Democratic attorney general, Roy Cooper. McCrory rode a GOP wave into office in 2012, but the Republican-controlled legislature’s passage of a controversial voter ID law and measures favored by religious conservatives have made the governor a lightning rod. The issue dominating the race is McCrory’s decision to sign a law requiring transgendered students to use bathrooms that match their gender of birth, rather than their gender of identity. Cooper not only opposed the measure, but he also refused to defend it in court. Expect massive amounts of outside cash to be poured into this race, which has become the latest battle in the culture wars. RATING: TOSS-UP





West Virginia: Democrats in the Mountaineer State, who have seen their once dominant hold on state politics slip away, are hoping to revive their fortunes with Jim Justice, a billionaire coal mine owner best known for his efforts to revive the state’s famed Greenbrier Resort. He faces Republican State Senate President Bill Cole, who became leader of the chamber in 2015 after the GOP captured a Senate majority for the first time in 83 years. Cole, an auto dealer from Bluefield, is hoping to become the first Republican elected governor in West Virginia since 1996. To get there, he’ll have to overcome Justice’s deep pockets. This seat is open because Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is term-limited, putting this race near the top of the GOP’s target list. RATING: TOSS-UP

Bernie Sanders cruises to big win in West Virginia primary

Democrat Jim Justice wins Democratic governor’s race, will face Republican Bill Cole in November

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

west-virginia mugCHARLESTON, West Virginia (CFP) — U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont easily won the Democratic presidential primary in West Virginia, notching a rare victory in the South.

sanders-lgSanders took 51.4 percent of the vote in Mountaineer State, compared to just 35.9 percent for Hillary Clinton. On the Republican ballot, Donald Trump–now unopposed for the nomination–scored an easy victory, taking 77 percent in the May 10 vote.

Meanwhile, in the state’s gubernatorial primaries, political newcomer Jim Justice won the Democratic nomination and will face Republican State Senate President Bill Cole in the general election. The incumbent Democrat, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, is term limited.

A Republican hasn’t won the governorship in West Virginia since 1996. However, the state’s recent GOP trend, which including capturing the state legislature in 2014, has given Republicans high hopes for taking the state’s top office.

But they will have to get past the deep pockets of Justice, a billionaire farmer and coal mine owner who was a registered Republican until 2015. Justice has gotten the coveted endorsement of the politically powerful United Mine Workers of America and other labor groups., as well as conservative Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin.

Sanders’ victory in West Virginia is just his second win in the South this primary season. With only Kentucky left to vote on May 17, Clinton has swept everything in the region except Oklahoma, most by wide margins.

Speaking to jubilant supporters in Salem, Oregon, as the results came in, Sanders pointedly noted that Clinton carried West Virginia by more than 40 points when she ran against Barack Obama in 2008

“West Virginia is a working class state and like many other states … in this country, working class people are hurting,” Sander said. “And what the people of West Virginia said tonight, and I believe the people of Oregon and Kentucky will say next week, is that we need an economy that works for all of the people, not just the 1 percent.”

Clinton was dogged by a remark she made in March that “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” which went over badly in coal-producing West Virginia. She later apologized for what she termed a “misstatement.”

Kentucky, the last Southern state left in the Democratic primary calendar, is also a coal-producing state. Both Sanders and Clinton have been campaigning hard in the Bluegrass State.

West Virginia was the final Southern stop for Republicans. Trump won every state in the region except for Oklahoma and Texas, which went to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz.

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