Prosecutor latest to express House interest
Recently re-elected Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants is seriously considering a run for U.S. House, he said Thursday.
Plants went unopposed to win a second term on Nov. 6. He now joins the ever-growing list of politicians and political insiders vying to replace Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.
Capito said this week she plans to run for U.S. Senate in 2014.
"I've talked to my friends and family and a trusted circle of advisers and, at some point, have to make an informed decision," Plants said.
He said the biggest obstacle to his run was his love for his job as prosecutor. Plants spent two years as an assistant prosecutor before winning his first four-year term in 2008.
"I think everybody has a drive to move on to the next level but, with that said, there's positives and negatives to any decision, and I'm just absolutely honored to be Kanawha County prosecutor," he said in a telephone interview. "I'm just honored that people are throwing my name out there as a potential candidate."
Electoral victories in the state's largest county give Plants and other Kanawha office holders a leg up in any congressional race. Officials from the populous Eastern Panhandle - like Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, who is also considering a running - share a similar advantage.
Plants is considering what it would mean to try to leave the prosecutor's office midway through his term.
"I want to do what's right for the people that just elected me," he said.
But he also has what's known as a "free shot" at Congress because he can be on the 2014 ballot and not risk losing his current position.
That's a cushion other Kanawha County politicians - like Republican Delegates Eric Nelson, Patrick Lane, Tim Armstead and Democratic Sen. Erik Wells and Delegate Doug Skaff - do not enjoy because they are back on the ballot in 2014. All have expressed interest in running for U.S. House in 2014, but each would have to give up their current seat to run.
Those are some but not all of the names floating about.
The scramble became public mid-morning on Monday when Capito, a seven-term congresswoman, formally announced she plans to run for U.S. Senate.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., holds that Senate seat now.
The senator has yet to make clear if he plans to run for re-election.
Former state Democratic Party Chairman Mike Callaghan is apparently the first Democrat to express interest in running for Senate if Rockefeller retires. If Rockefeller doesn't retire, Callaghan is also interested in Capito's House seat.
Others who have confirmed interest in the U.S. House seat are Democratic Party Chairman Nick Casey and Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph.
Other names have been floated, including former Republican legislator Steve Harrison, who reposted a link to a National Journal story that mentioned his interest in running.
Others' intentions are less clear, including former Democratic U.S. Sen. Carte Goodwin, former Republican Secretary of State Betty Ireland and former Democratic U.S. House candidate Anne Barth. Their names have been floated repeatedly. Goodwin has yet to comment. Ireland and Barth said they had not
yet thought about running, though Ireland said she had been receiving calls about running for House and noted Capito's district was "amenable" for a woman to run in and win.
Plants, a Republican and former West Virginia University football player, worked about a year as a stockbroker and then briefly handled civil cases for the law firm Kay, Casto and Chaney. He made an unsuccessful run for state Senate in 2006 and then was hired by former Prosecutor Bill Charnock.
In 2008, with the backing of popular ex-WVU Football Coach Don Nehlen, Plants won the election by 706 votes over Democrat Bill Murray, a longtime attorney and former Kanawha Circuit Court administrator.