West Virginia Secretary of State Joe Manchin III cruised to the Democratic gubernatorial nomination Tuesday, and three Republicans were in a close battle in a race that was thrown wide open when an extramarital affair put an end to Gov. Robert E. Wise Jr.'s political career.

With 47 percent of the vote counted, Manchin had 67,734 votes, or 51 percent, to 35,161 votes, or 27 percent, for former state senator Lloyd G. Jackson II. The two candidates had engaged in a bruising exchange of negative advertising in the weeks leading up to the primary.

Three GOP candidates remained bunched close to the top, led by former state tax secretary Rob Capehart, who had 11,511 votes, or 23 percent. Monty Warner, a retired Army colonel turned developer, was a close second with 10,600 votes, or 21 percent. Dan R. Moore, a former banker and car dealer, was third with 9,908 votes, or 20 percent.

Seventeen candidates competed for the nomination -- 10 Republicans and seven Democrats.

West Virginia is one of 11 states with gubernatorial races this year. Nationwide, 28 governors are Republicans and 22 are Democrats.

The governorship has changed parties four times in the past 20 years in West Virginia. Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1 among registered voters.