Earl Ray Tomblin, Bill Maloney win West Virginia gubernatorial primaries

Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin and Republican Bill Maloney prevailed in tonight’s gubernatorial primary in West Virginia, meaning they will face off in the special election scheduled for October 4th. Whoever wins in the fall will have to run for full term in November 2012.

The winner of that race will fill out the rest of now-Sen. Joe Manchin’s term, cut short when he won the Senate seat held by late Sen. Robert Byrd (D). Tomblin was state Senate president at the time, so under West Virginia law he has served as acting governor since November. He beat Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and state House Speaker Rick Thompson, along with three others.

Maloney, on the other hand, is a businessman who has never held office. Early on, former Secretary of State Betty Ireland was considered the Republican frontrunner. But she struggled to raise money and invested little in television ads. Six other Republicans ran but failed to get any traction.

The Republican Governors Association congratulated Maloney in a statement: “Bill Maloney’s victory gives Republicans a great opportunity to win back the governorship. Bill knows what it takes to create jobs and meet a payroll, and that’s exactly the type of experience voters have been responding to in states across the country.”

Ireland called Maloney to congratulate him.

Turnout was light, as is generally the case in special election primaries. Both Tomblin and Maloney will also face Mountain Party candidate Bob Henry Baber, who was chosen at a convention earlier this month.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.

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