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GovernmentExecutive.com - Covering The Business Of The Federal Government
West Virginia
Gov. Joe Manchin (D)
Last Updated June 22, 2005

Gov. Joe Manchin (D)
Gov. Joe Manchin (D)
Elected 2004, 1st term up Jan. 2009
Born: Aug. 24, 1947, Farmington
Home: Charleston
Education: WV U., B.S. 1970
Religion: Catholic
Marital Status: married (Gayle)
WV House, 1982-84; WV Senate 1986-96; WV Sec. of State, 2000-04.
Professional Career: Co-owner, Manchin's Carpet and Tile, 1968-82; Owner, Enersystems, 1989-2000.
Office State Capitol, Charleston 25305, 304-558-2000; Fax: 304-558-2722; Web: www.state.wv.us/governor.
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Joe Manchin, elected governor of West Virginia in 2004, comes from a family involved in politics for many years. Manchin grew up in Farmington, a few miles up Buffalo Creek from the industrial city of Fairmont on the Monongahela River. He remembers working in his grandfather's grocery store; he also worked in his father's carpet and furniture store, and took a semester off from college to rebuild it after a fire. His grandfather and father were elected mayor of Farmington; his uncle, A. James Manchin, was elected to the House of Delegates and, statewide, as secretary of state and state treasurer. After graduating from West Virginia University, Joe Manchin went to work in the carpet and furniture business, helping to send his four siblings to college. Then he started a coal brokerage company and eventually moved to Fairmont.

In 1982, at age 35, Joe Manchin was elected to the House of Delegates. In 1986 he was elected to the state Senate; a friend there was "Buffy" Warner, a Republican from next-door Monongalia County, the older brother of Manchin's 2004 Republican opponent Monty Warner. The family ties go back even further: Brud Warner, Buffy's and Monty's father, was a West Virginia University classmate of A. James Manchin and served with him in the House of Delegates. In 1996, after 10 years in the state Senate, Joe Manchin ran for governor. The Democratic primary was a riproaring contest between Manchin and legislator Charlotte Pritt, who had the support of organized labor. She attacked Manchin as the business candidate; unions opposed him because of his votes on workmen's comp. Pritt beat Manchin in the 11-candidate primary by 40%-32%. He declined to support her in the general election and attacked her in October; she lost to 74-year-old Republican Cecil Underwood, who had also been elected governor as a 34-year-old in 1956.

Manchin returned to Fairmont and seemed out of politics. But in 2000, when 86-year-old Secretary of State Ken Hechler ran for the U.S. House (where he had served from 1958 to 1976), Manchin ran for his office. So did Charlotte Pritt. This time Manchin beat her in the primary by 51%-29%. He worked with Republican U.S. attorneys to prevent vote fraud and was one of the few secretaries of state to comply with the federal requirement of a statewide voter registry. In May 2003, he announced he was challenging Democratic Governor Bob Wise in the 2004 primary. That seemed a daunting task, for Wise had already raised $1.2 million. But timing is everything: later in the month Wise announced that he had had an extramarital affair and would not seek reelection. In quick time eight Democrats and 10 Republicans joined the race.

In the 1996 governor's race, Manchin had been tagged as the business candidate. This time he worked successfully to get support from both labor and business. His stands on cultural issues were impeccably conservative: against abortion, gun control, same-sex marriage. But he emphasized economic issues, with a platform for concentrated state effort to spur economic development. It included "modernizing" taxes and workmen's comp, working with colleges to develop training programs, setting up large pools to buy drugs and purchase health insurance, and development of broadband and wireless technologies. He promised to seek more high-wage jobs in West Virginia's steel, polymer and chemical industries rather than lower-wage jobs in tourism.

The cast of characters in the May 2004 Democratic primary was not unfamiliar. Manchin's best financed opponent was former state Senator Lloyd Jackson, who had started running against him in 1996 and then bowed out; another was Charleston lawyer Jim Lees, who had also run in 1996. Jackson ran tough negative ads against Manchin, but they apparently didn't have much impact. Manchin won with 53% of the vote to 27% for Jackson and 14% for Lees. In the more fragmented Republican primary, Monty Warner, a retired Army colonel and Monongalia County developer, won with 23% of the vote, to 20% for big-spending former banker and auto dealer Dan Moore and 17% for former tax secretary Rob Capehart.

Manchin and Warner were old friends; Manchin substituted for the absent Buffy Warner at a family ceremony honoring Monty Warner on his retirement from the Army. They pledged to run a positive campaign, and mostly did. But the advantage was all with Manchin. He had far more money, and his implicitly low-tax platform undercut Warner's tax-cut, stop-lawsuit-abuse theme. Warner wasn't invited to appear on stage with George W. Bush during many of his frequent appearances in West Virginia, and Manchin's business support, plus the formation of a Republicans for Manchin group that included top Bush backers, helped convince the usually Republican Daily Mail to endorse him. The business community concentrated on an ultimately successful attempt to defeat Democratic state Supreme Court Justice Warren McGraw; his brother Attorney General Darrell McGraw was reelected by only a 50.4%-49.6% margin, while 90-year-old Ken Hechler lost his race for secretary of state 52%-48%. Republicans also made gains in state legislative races--a dividend, perhaps, of George W. Bush's 56%-43% victory in the state. But Manchin won by a wider margin, 64%-34%, carrying 52 of 55 counties.

Manchin entered office with the state budget in surplus but with a budget outlook in which expenditures seemed greater than revenues. His positions on some issues went against the grain of recent history--he said he wanted to slow school consolidation, in the face of complaints that high schools were too big. His plans to spur economic growth, which attracted support from both the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, would now have to produce results. And the continuing battles over whether West Virginia courts unduly favor plaintiffs and trial lawyers would go on. West Virginia seems to have a consensus governor, but the state's problems remain daunting.

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Election Results (More Info)
Candidate Total Votes Percent  
2004 general Joe Manchin (D) 472,758 64%
Monty Warner (R) 253,131 34%
Other 18,505 2%
2004 primary Joe Manchin (D) 149,362 53%
Lloyd Jackson (D) 77,052 27%
Jim Lees (D) 40,161 14%
Other 16,687 6%
2000 general Robert Wise (D) 324,822 50%
Cecil H. Underwood (R) 305,926 47%
Other 17,299 3%

Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005 [an error occurred while processing this directive]

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