Sabato's Crystal Ball

West Virginia (03) House 2010

 

Crystal Ball Outlook: Likely D

Democratic candidate: Nick Rahall, Incumbent

Republican candidate: Spike Maynard, State Supreme Court Justice

Recent updates from the Crystal Ball

Background:

Democratic incumbent Nick Rahall, who has represented West Virginia’s 3rd district since 1976, is fighting for his eighteenth term against Republican challenger Elliot Spike Maynard.  The Third Congressional District includes most of the mountainous coal country in southern West Virginia, the cities of Huntington and Beckley, and the farming uplands.  Although the district is reliably Democratic, it has favored Republicans over the past decade, especially in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections.

However, former Democrat and State Supreme Court Justice, Spike Maynard, is not helped by his ties to Don Blankenship, the CEO of Massey Energy, whose Upper Big Branch mine recently exploded, killing 29 miners and bringing heightened scrutiny of Massey’s numerous safety violations.  Also, Maynard has completely self-financed his campaign so far and is at a large financial disadvantage compared to Rahall.  Still, Rahall must juggle a balancing act of remaining an advocate of the coal industry while also protesting coal companies skirting safety violations.  The fact that Rahall has only dropped below 61% of the vote once since he was first elected, coupled with his lack of a serious challenger in 20 years, indicates that this race remains Likely Democratic.