Alan Mollohan, a 14-term incumbent from the northern tier in West Virginia, lost his re-election bid in the Democratic primary last night. This could be cause for cheer, as Mollohan, a conservative Democrat and a member of the Stupak bloc, was not exactly a progressive’s dream. But his opponent, state Senator Mike Oliverio, ran pretty hard to his right during the campaign. You can see his issues page and see one bad position after another. Oliverio even hedged on whether he would support Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker.
However, it’s more likely this race turned on issues of corruption than ideology:
Mollohan hadn’t faced a serious primary fight in more than a decade and was seen in some circles as unbeatable, given that the state’s 1st Congressional District seat had been in his family since 1968. (His father held it for seven terms before he won it.)
But state Sen. Mike Oliverio ran hard against Mollohan’s entrenched-incumbent status and made much of the lingering whiff of ethics problems that dogged the congressman for years.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Oliverio had 56 percent of the vote to Mollohan’s 44 percent. In November, he will face former state delegate David McKinley, who won the Republican primary Tuesday night.
The Democratic race had become very nasty in its final weeks, with Oliverio referring to Mollohan as “one of the most corrupt members of Congress” and the incumbent retorting that his opponent was “lying” and “spreading right-wing smears.”
Mollohan barely escaped indictment last year, and his constituents knew well the long process and revelations leading up to that.
More than anything, this race may have been the inevitable outcome from yet another change electorate. As constituent John Cole notes, his Congressman has been named Mollohan for his entire life – first the father, then the son. In an anti-incumbent environment, Mollohan was a sitting duck, and he didn’t do the work to stop the challenge. He won’t be the last.
Residents who know Oliverio say he isn’t quite as conservative as his profile suggests, and Mollohan was on that side anyway, so this might be a wash from an ideological standpoint, though Oliverio now must defeat David McKinley, a popular former legislator, in the general election. But this definitely speaks to the deep anti-incumbent mood in the country.