Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) won about 50 percent of the vote against a Republican challenger, businessman Bill Maloney, who tried to paint Tomblin as too close to an unpopular President Obama.
Both the DGA and Republican Governors Association were heavily involved in the race. Tomblin enjoyed a large lead during the summer, but the race tightened significantly during the closing weeks amid a barrage of negative television ads funded by the RGA.
The contest is one of four gubernatorial elections nationwide this year and the first since O’Malley ascended to chairman of the DGA in December.
For much of the year, the conventional wisdom had been that Democrats had the advantage in West Virginia and Kentucky, while Republicans have a near lock on the other two races, in Louisiana and Mississippi. The remaining three will be decided next month.
A Democratic loss in West Virginia would have been viewed as a setback for O’Malley’s chairmanship, which he has used as a perch to become more visible in national politics. Tomblin’s victory will undoubtedly provide more talking points about Democratic stewardship of the economy as O’Malley continues to travel around the country and make television appearances.
As DGA chairman, O’Malley has worked largely behind the scenes to assist Tomblin. Those efforts included co-hosting a fundraiser in the District last month with Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert). Tomblin is the former president of the West Virginia Senate.