Former Gov. Gaston Caperton spent time last weekend talking with Ralph Baxter, an attorney who is thinking about making a run for U.S. Senate.
Baxter said he stayed at Caperton's home in South Hills and spent a lot of time talking about what is happening in West Virginia.
The big thing, of course, is U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller's decision not to seek a sixth term in the Senate. Now, Democrats are looking for someone who can take on Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who said in late November she would run, with or without Rockefeller on the ticket.
Baxter and Caperton dined together on Saturday evening at Paterno's at the Park, an Italian restaurant in Charleston, while the Broncos lost in double overtime to the Ravens.
By Monday, Caperton said publicly he would not run for Senate. By Wednesday, Baxter made clear he was seriously considering entering the race.
It would be Baxter's first run for public office and also mean a full-time return to West Virginia for Baxter, who left the state with his family and has spent much of his life in California.
Baxter is the CEO of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, an international law firm headquartered in San Francisco.
"Where I really think I have been living is on United Airlines; that's what it feels like to me," Baxter said.
But his family is from Wetzel County and he said he grew up in the Northern Panhandle. He said he now maintains a home in Ohio County.
"All of my relatives as far as there has been a state of West Virginia, all of my ancestors have been born in it," he said.
About a decade ago, Baxter decided to open an office for the law firm in Wheeling. He received state aid to do so. The center now employs about 350 people, according to the company.
"I decided we should open a center where we could do a lot of our work in a way it could be centralized and less expensive," he said.
Since then, he said he's reconnected to West Virginia in a serious way.
"I don't consider myself an outsider. I don't consider myself an out-of-state person. I consider myself a person who spent their adult life working elsewhere," Baxter said.
In West Virginia, he has serious acquaintances, like Caperton, who Baxter calls a very good friend, and Charleston lawyer Tom Heywood, who helped lead Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's campaign, who Baxter also calls a very good friend.
Former Sen. Lloyd Jackson, who Tomblin just appointed to the state Board of Education, said on Thursday that Baxter would a formidable candidate and a good U.S. senator.
Republicans operatives have already begun to dig into Baxter's past, noting thousands of dollars he gave to Barack Obama's campaign in 2008. Campaign finance records list his address then as San Francisco.
Baxter said he was a supporter of Evan Bayh's, then Hillary Clinton's and then Obama's. Baxter points out he did not give to Obama's 2012 reelection campaign.
In the past three elections, Democrats have attacked several Republicans as out-of-state millionaires trying to buy seats. The party's message could be complicated if Republicans try to turn the tables on them, citing Baxter's past.
"Everybody is entitled to their own view of that," Baxter said. "But I am what I am - I have spent all these years in California and other places."
Baxter said he plans to become a full-time resident of West Virginia and start talking to educators and students to try to "figure out what the answer is to the grave problems in education."
After that, Baxter said, he would decide if he will run for Senate.