CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia voters must decide whether their disapproval of President Barack Obama will influence who else they pick Tuesday on a lengthy ballot that features a U.S. Senate contest, the governor's race, a slew of legislative posts and a proposed constitutional amendment.
Though registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 2-1, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is expected to win the state's five electoral votes handily. Just over 13 percent of West Virginia's 1.2 million already had cast early or absentee ballots before Tuesday.
In other races, Republican candidates worked to link Democratic incumbents to the unpopular president.
Republican John Raese made Obama a big part of his campaign against U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin for a full six-year term in the Senate. Manchin was governor when he defeated Raese, a Morgantown multimillionaire and industrialist, in a 2010 special election prompted by the death of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's GOP opponent, Bill Maloney, also invoked Obama while blaming the incumbent for the state's chronically poor rankings in economic and education categories. Their race marks another rematch. Tomblin was Senate president acting as governor following Manchin's departure when he narrowly beat Maloney in a special election last October.
Tomblin has cited how the state weathered the Great Recession and fragile recovery in his contest against Maloney, a Morgantown drilling consultant and business owner.
The GOP's Obama strategy also extended to other races, including the one for attorney general. Republican Patrick Morrisey, an Eastern Panhandle lawyer who previously worked on Capitol Hill, seeks to deny Attorney General Darrell McGraw a sixth term. The Democrat has found himself outspent by Morrisey and pro-GOP allies who have flooded the state with TV ads.
Four other statewide executive offices, all held by Democrats, also are on the ballot. Treasurer John Perdue faces Mike Hall, the Senate's minority leader. Freshman Delegate Brian Savilla, like Hall a Putnam County Republican, is taking on Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. Larry Faircloth, a former veteran GOP legislator, is running against Auditor Glen Gainer. Sen. Walt Helmick, a Democrat, and Republican Kent Leonhardt are vying to succeed retiring Agriculture Commissioner Gus Douglass.
Voters will award a pair of 12-year terms on the five-seat Supreme Court of Appeals. Justice Robin Davis and Tish Chafin, a recent State Bar president, are the Democratic nominees. The GOP is fielding Allen Loughry, a longtime lawyer at the court, and Circuit Judge John Yoder.
All three of West Virginia's seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up Tuesday. Freshman U.S. Rep. David McKinley faces a low-funded Democratic challenger, Sue Thorn, in the 1st District. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito faces a similar situation in the 2nd District, where Howard Swint is the Democrats' nominee. Both incumbents are Republicans, as is freshman Delegate Rick Snuffer. The Raleigh County legislator is challenging 3rd District Rep. Nick Rahall, a Democrat seeking a 19th term.
Democrats hold majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, but Republicans hope to erase their margin in the House of Delegates. Will all 100 seats up for election, the GOP has focused on seats shifted to the Eastern Panhandle in response to the 2010 Census as well as a redrawn, four-seat district representing part of Kanawha County. Democratic incumbents in Boone, Preston and Monongalia counties also face well-funded Republican opponents.
With half of the 34-member Senate on the ballot, the GOP failed to field challengers to seven of the 11 incumbent Democrats running. The chamber's contests include two open seats, one representing Kanawha and Putnam counties and the other a district that includes Jackson County. Senate candidates have waged pricey races in the district that includes Mercer County and in the Eastern Panhandle.
A proposed constitutional amendment, meanwhile, would repeal term limits for county sheriffs. While requiring a simple majority, previous attempts failed in 1994, 1986 and 1982.