Control of West Virginia Senate could hinge on eastern panhandle race

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CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. (WDVM) — With control of the West Virginia State Senate hanging in the balance, one of the pivotal races for political power in the state capital is in the eastern panhandle.

In the Mountain State’s eastern panhandle Senator Patricia Rucker not only hopes to serve at least another term in the legislature, but she also hopes to keep the chamber in GOP control. Hers is one of several competitive Senate races that could decide the majority, with the senate president being the de facto lieutenant governor, a heartbeat from the gubernatorial succession.

On the campaign trail, says Rucker, “there’s still a lot of concerns about the economy and how we’re going to recover. And about kids being in the classroom. That’s a big one.”

Democratic nominee for the senate seat is Jefferson County Sheriff Pete Dougherty, with decades of public service experience in the county.

“Whether it’s for education or infrastructure or broadband or economic development or the environment,” says Dougherty “I have a history and a record.”

That record is one Senator Rucker wants voters to compare with hers, so she is investing a lot of energy in her campaign

“Whether it is making phone calls, sending emails, going door to door,” says Rucker, “I am working hard.”

Her challenger is making the point that having divided power in the capital may be a good thing.

“With the governor being in the hands of the Republicans and the House in the hands of the Republicans,” says Dougherty, “having a Senate that is controlled by Democrats will not hurt us but will actually make us perform and do better.”

With final ballots about to be cast, supporters for both candidates are out in the November chill to get out the vote. More than a half-million dollars has been spent in this race, much of it from outside interest groups.

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