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Will Auditor Glen Gainer run for Congress?

West Virginia Auditor Glen Gainer wants to run for Congress. In fact, one of his lifetime goals has been to represent his state in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Now Gainer, who is in his sixth term as auditor, has the opportunity.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is looking for someone to challenge two-term incumbent Republican David McKinley in the 1st District race in 2014, and they have their sights set on Gainer.

We've seen no polling on a possible McKinley-Gainer race, but a look back at the 2012 General Election at least gives some indication of how even the two are in the 1st District.

Gainer and McKinley each won re-election easily in 2012. Gainer beat Republican Larry Faircloth 57 percent to 43 percent, while McKinley beat Democrat Sue Thorn 62 percent to 38 percent.

But what's interesting is how similar the vote totals were for Gainer and McKinley.

For example, voters in the 20 First District counties cast a total of 258,863 votes for McKinley and Gainer in their separate races, yet their individual vote totals were separated by less than 1 percent.

McKinley received 133,809 votes, while Gainer received 125,054 votes, a difference of just 8,755.

The election in the 1st District is going to be won or lost in the five largest counties - Harrison, Marion, Monongalia, Ohio and Wood.

Gainer and McKinley also received very similar vote totals in those counties: 76,276 for Gainer and 74,008 for McKinley.

Gainer believes, and rightfully so, that Wood County would be a key to the race.

That's Gainer's home county, and he always runs strong there, even though it's a Republican stronghold.

Gainer received 22,102 votes in Wood County in 2012, more than any other statewide candidate on the ballot except for Mitt Romney.

McKinley counts heavily on Wood County. It has provided big margins for him in his two congressional races.

In 2012, he received more votes in Wood County - 20,406 - than in any of the other 19 counties in the district.

These numbers are intriguing, and they tempt Gainer, who is having trouble deciding whether to run.

Gainer is in the middle of his term, which means he could run for the congressional seat next year and still have a job if he lost.

But Gainer, like every politician who does not have personal wealth, worries about the money.

According to the latest Federal Election Commission report (March 2013), McKinley had $1,005,617 in his campaign fund. No doubt he's continuing to raise money, an easier proposition for a sitting congressman than it is for a challenger.

Gainer would have to begin a campaign by spending every night and weekend dialing for dollars, a daunting prospect.

Yes, the national party may be willing to help, but it wants to see candidates raise their own money first.

If the long-time auditor is unwilling to make that commitment, the election results from 2012 that show a remarkable similarity in the level of support each has among 1st District voters will remain only an interesting bit of trivia, rather than the basis for a spirited campaign.

And Gainer's lifelong ambition of reaching Washington will remain unfulfilled.

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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