CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The primary race for West Virginia's 2nd Congressional District could be a crowded one for state Republicans, but it seems Democrats are planning to keep their ticket short.
Although few candidates have officially announced they are running and the January filing deadline is a long way away, several prominent Republicans have expressed interest in running for Rep. Shelley Moore Capito's seat.
That includes Kanawha Republicans Tim Armstead, the House Minority Leader; Delegate Eric Nelson; Delegate Patrick Lane; and Steve Harrison, a former member of both the state Senate and the House, along with former state Republican Party Chairman Mike Stuart. Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall, R-Putnam, says he is "seriously considering" a run for Capito's seat, too.
Capito announced last year she would run for retiring U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller's seat, leaving her current position wide open.
But Conrad Lucas, chairman of the state Republican Party, said Capito's decade-long run in her current seat has helped pave the way for a new crop of GOP candidates.
"I think it's great. It's a sign of the times for Republicans, where in the past we may only have one or two ready to hop in the race," he said.
He expects many Republicans to "test the water" this summer, even though only a few candidates may remain by the primary election next May.
Lucas said he's confident the GOP will hold onto Capito's seat.
"I'm sure we will. With the liberal anti-coal policies of federal Democrats, we know West Virginians understand that. We can't send an ally of President Obama to Washington," he said.
State Democrat Party chairman Larry Puccio, meanwhile, sees things a little differently.
"I think the Democratic Party is alive and well and doing extremely strong. I think it's only going to get better," he said.
While others see West Virginia politics shifting more to the GOP, Puccio says Democrats are still holding strong.
"We won the United States Senate seat (in 2012). We won the governor's seat. We continued to have the president of the state Senate be Democrat and the Speaker of the House be Democrat," he said.
Puccio does not expect many Democrats will jump into the race for Capito's spot in the House of Representatives but believes the party will stick with a few strong candidates "that are well known and have the ability to run and win."
He would not say who those candidates are but promised an announcement in the near future.
"We think that we will regain that seat. We think it's a very strong possibility. We've always said it takes a good candidate that runs a good campaign," Puccio said.
Few of the names being lobbed about have expressed firm plans yet.
For example, following the end of the legislative session last week, Hall said he is giving a congressional campaign "an exploratory thought."