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Candidates return to campaign trail after storm

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - After taking a snow day, or two or three in some areas, political candidates are making their way back onto the campaign trail, party officials said.

Candidates were getting back into the groove after a heavy snowstorm swept through the Mountain State Monday and Tuesday, leaving hundreds of thousands without electricity, said Conrad Lucas, chairman of the state Republican Party.

The snowstorm, caused by superstorm Sandy, also has been linked to at least five deaths in this state.

Among them was House of Delegates candidate John Rose, a Republican from Barbour County. Lucas said Rose's death "put a somber tone" on the election for the other candidates.

But the candidates trudge on, he said. Lucas said he had not spoken to candidates in hard-hit areas such as Beckley or Pocahontas County, but those in Kanawha County and elsewhere were starting to make the final push toward Election Day.

The same could be said for Democrats, said state Democratic Chairman Larry Puccio.

"I've understood many of our candidates are out working in parts of the state doing what Democrats do best, touching every hand and earning every vote," Puccio said.

He said some candidates in lesser-affected areas were able to keep campaigning.

The storm came at an awkward time for candidates as Election Day is Tuesday, said Lucas.

He wondered if the storm, especially in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, would have any effect on the presidential race.

President Barack Obama, the Democratic incumbent, toured storm-ravaged New Jersey Wednesday with outspoken Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who had openly criticized the president in the past.

Christie, a supporter of Republican nominee Mitt Romney, spoke highly of the president's response to the disaster, saying he "can't thank the president enough" for his concern and support.  

Romney was on the campaign trail in swing state Florida on Wednesday. The Associated Press reported the candidate softened his attacks on Obama and asked Florida residents to donate to the storm relief effort in the Northeast. Romney's campaign cancelled some rallies in Ohio Tuesday and turned one rally into a storm relief event.

The presidential race has led television political pundits to speculate on whether the storm would have any effect on the race and what, if any, advantages would accrue to incumbent candidates.

When asked if incumbents had any advantage in West Virginia races, Lucas responded, "I would hate to think they would use so many people's personal tragedies for political gain, but certainly we are seeing them taking every advantage of incumbency."

He said incumbents were taking publicized tours of damaged areas.

Puccio said he had not heard of any candidates "taking advantage of the storm."

"They may be offering help to individuals affected by the storm, but I think whether you're an officeholder or not, we should all just be helping each other," he said.

"We're all West Virginians; whether it's a candidate, elected officeholder, or just a true West Virginian, we help each other. This is a state that helps each other."

Officials of both parties reminded voters to be cautious as they head to the polls this week. Early voting continues through Saturday.  

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at or 304-348-4850.



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