Potential candidates are constantly getting "mentioned" for higher office, but who's doing all that work? Why, the Great Mentioner, of course. In this new ongoing series, Daily Kos channels the Great Mentioner and catalogs all the notable candidates who might run in 2016's most important races.
West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin is thinking about running for his old job as governor
Plenty of governors get elected to the U.S. Senate and quickly realize they miss their old job. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in particular pines for a return to the governor's mansion: He's gone from being the top dog in Charleston to being part of the minority in a chamber where almost nothing gets done. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a fellow Democrat, is termed-out next year, and Manchin is eligible to once again serve as governor.
The senator has said he'll make a decision by late spring or early summer, but he seems to be leaning strongly toward a gubernatorial run. Thanks to his universal name recognition, personal appeal (he won re-election in 2012 by 24 points as Tomblin was prevailing with just a 5-percent margin), and uniquely conservative profile, Manchin is by far the strongest potential Democrat and he'd put his party in a strong position to retain the governorship.
But it could come at a serious cost. Mountain State Republicans are hoping they can either deter Manchin or snag his Senate seat if he wins back his old post. The new Republican speaker of the House of Delegates is pushing for a bill that would prevent the governor from making Senate appointments.
If it passed and Manchin prevails, there would be a special election for his U.S. Senate seat sometime in 2017. (In a red state like this, the GOP would likely score a pickup here.) Republicans could override a veto by Tomblin with just a simple majority in each chamber, so there's little stopping them from going forward. National Democrats would be reluctant to trade the Senate seat for the governorship, but they probably don't have much leverage when it comes to talking Manchin out of the gubernatorial race.
Please head below the fold for more on this race.
But if for some reason Manchin doesn't run in 2016, state Democrats have a few other options. State Republican Party Chair Conrad Lucas did some great mentioning of his own back in November and speculated that the Democrats could run Auditor Glen Gainer; Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick; Treasurer John Perdue; or Secretary of State Natalie Tennant.
Gainer and Tennant were on the 2014 ballot, running for the 1st Congressional District and for the U.S. Senate respectively, and both lost badly. Gainer did not raise much money last year and he'd probably not be the party's top choice. Tennant brought in a decent amount and made no real missteps; her defeat was simply the product of circumstances beyond her control. Still, Tennant lost a 2011 special primary for governor, and she may be reluctant to risk a third high-profile defeat so soon.
Perdue ran for governor in 2011 as well, so he may be interested in another try. (It's not clear what his deal is, though. The Washington Post, citing no sources, called Perdue the "only official candidate" in the race last month, but just as quickly, Perdue's office told the AP's Jonathan Mattise that he was not running.) Helmick, meanwhile, narrowly won an open seat in 2012, which is nothing to sneeze at given how well Romney did in the state.
Beyond Lucas's list, there are several other Democrats who could run. Carte Goodwin, who served in the U.S. Senate for a few months until Manchin won the seat in a 2010 special election, may be interested in running for office at some point. Nick Casey ran a close race for the state's 2nd Congressional District last year, performing well in the midst of a Republican wave (albeit against a carpetbagging opponent). State Del. Tim Manchin, a cousin of the senator, may also have his eye on higher office, and would start out with good name recognition. Tim Manchin thought about running for WV-01 back in 2012, so it's clear that he's at least ambitious enough to consider going for a promotion.
For the GOP, much depends on Manchin's choice as well. Republicans would surely prefer an open seat, but they've been on the offensive in West Virginia for the last several cycles and some ambitious types may be willing to take on the former governor. State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey confirmed his interest back in December and so far no other notable Republicans have made noises about running.
Rep. David McKinley ran for the job back in 1996, and he may be interested in trying again 20 years later. State Senate President Bill Cole has also gotten some attention, though he hasn't signaled any interest. Newly elected Reps. Alex Mooney and Evan Jenkins could also go for a promotion. Jenkins in particular may have incentive to run for statewide office early, since his seat is in danger of being eliminated in the next round of redistricting.
Both sides have a lot riding on this race. West Virginia Republicans are hoping that 2016 will give them complete control of the state government for the first time in generations, and Democrats want to prove that they can still win in this ancestrally blue state. We're expecting an exciting contest, and we'll be watching it closely at Daily Kos Elections.
For all of our posts in the Daily Kos Great Mentioner series, click here.