CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Longtime Democratic Attorney General Darrell McGraw lost Tuesday, a major scalp for Republicans and industry.
Republican challenger Patrick Morrisey, who was not licensed to practice law in West Virginia until shortly before he filed to run in January, will be the state's next chief legal officer.
Morrisey and his allies -- mostly out-of-state conservative and anti-regulation political action committees with secret sources of money -- outspent McGraw and McGraw's allies by more than three to one.
The Associated Press called the race for Morrisey at 12:45 a.m. Wednesday.
Morrisey, a 44-year-old New Jersey native who moved to Harpers Ferry in 2006, overcame McGraw, one of the most entrenched Democrats in state history. McGraw, who turns 76 on Thursday, is a former state Supreme Court justice and has been attorney general for two decades.
Morrisey ran a targeted and well-funded campaign to challenge McGraw's ethics and McGraw's failure to more frequently sue the Obama administration over things like environmental regulations and the health care reform law.
McGraw, long targeted by industry groups, has had several close calls in recent elections. But Republicans have been unable to close the deal.
McGraw finally tumbled. His own campaign did not come together in a noticeable way until late in the election cycle.
McGraw's office has collected more than $2 billion from consumer protection lawsuits since he took office after the 1992 election.
"The voters have spoken and there's really not anything else to say," McGraw's longtime aide Fran Hughes said in a phone interview early Wednesday morning.
But she allowed, "I think it's bad for consumers."
"We tried and we're proud of what we've accomplished in the attorney general's office and we fought a good race and the voters decided," Hughes said.
Morrisey's campaign released a statement about its victory.
"With your help, West Virginia made a significant change tonight that was long overdue," Morrisey said.
He said he would serve in an "honorable and effective manner."
"For too long, this state has been under attack from the Environmental Protection Agency and overreaching laws and regulations, such as Obamacare," Morrisey said. "These Obama policies have harmed West Virginia. It's now time for West Virginia's Attorney General to fight back."
Morrisey has vowed to strengthen ethics policies. Critics have argued McGraw uses public money to promote himself; McGraw supporters argue the money is being spent to promote the office's services for consumers.
Morrisey has also promised to establish an "office of federalism," which will focus on shielding West Virginia from federal actions. Morrisey will join the ranks of aggressive Republicans who sue the federal government. Unknown yet is what will become of McGraw's signature consumer protection office, an office that has recently gone after drug companies and debt collectors.
The Attorney General's Office's bread and butter came from multimillion-dollar lawsuits against companies, though the office has a long list of tasks -- it spends much of its time prosecuting criminal appeals and representing 250 state agencies.
Morrisey, a former congressional staffer who lives in the Eastern Panhandle, wants to act as general counsel to other branches of government to make sure "competent decisions" are being made.
Morrisey will also be the sole elected Republican in the executive branch -- the governor, treasurer, auditor, agriculture commissioner and secretary of state are all Democrats.
The tension this might create could create an interesting dynamic within the Capitol because Morrisey's office could represent the others in court and also give them legal advice that, while semi-non-binding, has been considered key to policymaking.