CHARLESTON, W.Va.--Voters can expect Democratic acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Republican businessman Bill Maloney to talk a lot about jobs and who will be better at getting more of them in West Virginia.
Both men won decisive victories in their respective party's primary Saturday. Now they are gearing up for the Oct. 4 special gubernatorial election, for about a 14-month stint in the Governor's Office.
Early conversations with campaign and party officials suggest this could resemble the U.S. Senate race last year between then-Gov. Joe Manchin and Republican businessman John Raese.
Now, just as then, Republicans are planning to draw a contrast between their candidate, a businessman, and a "career politician." Tomblin has spent much of his life in politics and Maloney is making his first run for elected office.
"Do we want some of the same old folks running the state or do we want new perspectives, new ideas and new people? Do we want a governor who is going to demand results from the government rather than be part of the same old Charleston scene?" Maloney campaign spokesman Matt Dabrowski said Sunday afternoon.
Now, just as then, Democrats are hoping West Virginia voters may find the Republican's positions too extreme for their tastes.
"I think we'll find Maloney has some ideas that are kind of out there," said Tomblin campaign spokesman Chris Stadelman.
That's a tactic Manchin's campaign used successfully against Raese.
Raese had suggested an expensive space-based laser defense system, for instance. But it's not clear yet what positions might be used against Maloney.
Now, just as then, Democrats are also hoping to paint their candidate as a fiscal conservative. Now, just as then, Republicans are arguing Democrats are to blame for the state's ills.
A key talking point from Republicans over the past few years has been how West Virginia remains at the bottom of so many lists — highlighting its low income, poor health and underperforming schools — after decades of Democratic control of the Legislature.
The Tomblin camp, in turn, is pointing out that Tomblin helped fix some of the long-term problems created by earlier generations of leaders by helping pay off massive unfunded liabilities. Tomblin is the state's longest-serving Senate president. By virtue of holding that title, he began acting as governor following the departure of Manchin for the U.S. Senate.
"I think Earl Ray Tomblin has a great track record of improving the state's condition, fiscally in particular," Stadelman said. "We've taken care a lot of long-standing issues while he's been in key positions."
Dabrowski replied, "I'd say, he's been up there almost 40 years, is he suggesting that he's part of the problem in Charleston despite being in a leadership position for 36 years?"
The Manchin-Raese, Maloney-Tomblin race isn't identical, of course.