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Eastern panhandle could decide control of West Virginia Senate

Written by on October 20, 2020

BERKELEY COUNTY, W.Va. (WDVM) — With two weeks to go, so much is at stake in next month’s election. In West Virginia voters are paying attention to the political dynamics in the eastern panhandle.

Democrats can control the state senate if they pick up four seats in the November election. Eastern panhandle Republicans are working to prevent that since one of their own, Finance Committee chair, Charles Trump from Morgan County, is seen as a serious successor to the current president, Jackson County’s Mitch Carmichael, who lost his primary this summer.

Says Republican Delegate Larry D. Kump, representing Berkeley and Morgan counties, “it would be great for the eastern panhandle to actually have a state senate president who will set the agenda.”

And on the public policy front, Democrats hope to make gains. Just ask Berkeley County candidate for the House of Delegates Dan Bennet, hoping to secure more funding for the MARC train commuter rail service, which is so important to the panhandle.

“We had a compromise last time on the MARC bill,” says Bennett. “I am hoping that the eastern panhandle is served well by representation down in Charleston.”

But statewide, Senate control has implications for drawing legislative and congressional boundaries after the 2020 census. The Mountain State will lose one of its three seats in the U.S. House.

“We’ll also have one less congressional representative in the United States House of Representatives,” Kump says, “so that’s bad news for West Virginia due to our declining population.”

“Having the Democrats in one house and the republicans in the other,” says Bennett “will mean there’s a chance for people to sit down and really hash out these issues.”

With two weeks until election day both parties are turning out the troops. The Republicans currently control the State Senate by a margin of 20 to 14. Jefferson County Republican Senator Patricia Rucker is facing a strong challenge from Democratic Sheriff Pete Dougherty. The race could decide Senate control for next year.

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