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Experienced players and smart new faces

With the election behind us, it's a good time to take a look, in no particular order, at some of the emerging political figures who were on the ballot:

On the way up:

* Doug Skaff. The Kanawha County Democratic delegate led the ticket in his district in each of the last three elections.

Skaff established himself as the de-facto leader of the Kanawha County delegation when he negotiated a break-up of the old 30th district during redistricting.

* Erikka Storch. A moderate Republican Delegate from Ohio County who is the chief financial officer of a steel company, but also has the backing of labor.

She has led the ticket in her district the last two elections.

* Eric Nelson. Another moderate Republican, Nelson won his second term in the House of Delegates in Kanawha County. Nelson is a successful businessman whose father served briefly in the Legislature.

One political observer says Nelson is "young, likes politics and has ambition."

* Democrat Josh Stowers. was the ticket leader in the 22nd delegate district (Lincoln, Logan, Boone, Putnam) to win his third term.

Stowers brings youth and enthusiasm from a part of the state that needs fresh faces in politics.

* Doug Reynolds. Democratic leaders believe this Huntington attorney has statewide potential.

Reynolds led the ticket in his district and was re-elected to his fourth term.

Brand new:

* Joshua Nelson. Nelson is a 25-year-old former Marine turned coal miner who ran as a Republican in Democrat-dominated Boone County.

Even Nelson's father told him he was crazy to run, but he beat incumbent Democrat Delegate Larry Barker 63 percent to 37 percent.

* Stephen Skinner. This Jefferson County attorney is young, smart and outspoken.

Skinner, a Democrat, won a House seat and could be part of the emerging power shift to West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle.

* Bill Cole. This Republican car dealer from Bluefield spent heavily, campaigned hard and defeated incumbent Democrat Mark Wills in the Senate's 6th district (McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Wayne), which had been drawn to guarantee Democratic control.

Cole, at 56, is not exactly a young gun, but he has means and now a state Senate seat.

* Suzette Raines. Yet another moderate Republican who claimed a House seat in Kanawha County and, in the process, helped knock out two long-serving Democrats - Bobbie Hatfield and Bonnie Brown.

* Patrick Morrisey. The best way for a Republican to win statewide office in West Virginia is to run against a McGraw.

Brent Benjamin did it in 2004 when he defeated Democrat Warren McGraw for the state Supreme Court and Morrisey did it when he defeated Warren's brother, Darrell, in the attorney general's race.

* Allen Loughry. The conventional wisdom was that Democrat Tish Chafin would take the second position in this year's state Supreme Court race.

The smart, likeable Loughry never bought into that and won with shoe leather and wholesome TV ads that somehow managed not to be corny.

These are just a few names that come to mind after consulting with political observers in the state.

Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.


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