by Kate Shunney
Republican political newcomer Sean Forney won a six-year term on the Morgan County Commission last Tuesday, pushing out former commissioner and Democrat Stacy Schultz by a wide margin in the county’s most contentious political race this cycle.
Forney took 4,197 votes in the election while Schultz pulled in 1,828.
Unaffiliated Codi Ford, a third candidate for the county seat, came in far behind the field with just 210 votes after waging virtually no campaign for the post.
Forney will take the seat being vacated by two-term commissioner Bob Ford. He will take office in January 2019.
Forney, a Morgan County businessman, beat out Ford in the May primary to reach the November 6 general election as the GOP candidate.
Voting on Tuesday, November 6 was brisk at the county’s 13 precincts. County Clerk Kim Nickles reported that even on the rainy Election Day, there were lines of voters waiting for the polls to open at virtually every precinct in the county.
Voter turnout in this mid-term election was a record 47 percent, with 6,332 Morgan County voters casting a ballot on election day and during early voting. There are 13,467 registered voters in the county.
Turnout in recent elections hit a high of 40.9 percent during the May primary with hotly contested party races at every level of the ballot. Turnout in the May 2018 primary election was just 29.3 percent.
Morgan County Prosecuting Attorney Dan James secured the unexpired term of former prosecutor Debra McLaughlin with 5,117 votes in his unopposed campaign to turn his appointed position into an elected one.
Berkeley Springs attorney and Republican State Senator Charles Trump IV secured another term in the State Senate, winning out over Independent challenger Jason Armentrout in the 15th district, which includes Morgan County. With three of four counties reporting, Trump had a 13,000-vote lead over Armentrout.
Berkeley Springs businessman and Morgan County Economic Development director Daryl Cowles fought off two challengers to win another two-year term in the House of Delegates representing the 58th district. Republican Cowles won with 3,783 votes over Berkeley Springs Democrat Bibi Hahn, who pulled in 1,419 votes in the district during her first political campaign. Berkeley Springs referee and political Independent Kent McCumbee rolled up 373 votes in the race.
Former Republican delegate Larry Kump will return to the House of Delegates representing the 59th district after beating Democrat John Isner 4,518 votes to 2,765.
All winning candidates will take office in January 2019.
Voters in the second Congressional district favored Republican incumbent Alex Mooney to keep his seat in the U.S. House of Representative despite a challenge by Democrat Talley Sergent. Mooney collected 109,018 votes to Sergent’s 86,678. Morgan County voters went even more heavily for Mooney, with 67 percent of the local votes in the Congressional race going to the two-term Congressman.
The race for West Virginia’s U.S. Senate seat a close call to the last, but former governor and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D) kept his seat in the upper chamber of Congress. Manchin beat out West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey by just 18,936 votes. The Republican from Jefferson County had major campaign backing from President Donald Trump and took in 46 percent of the state’s votes. Morgan County voters backed Morrisey more heavily, with 61 percent of local voters voting Republican in that race.
Statewide, voters narrowly passed an amendment to the West Virginia Constitution that will state residents have no constitutional right to an abortion. The amendment ballot issue passed with 51.7 percent of the ballots favoring it, and 48.3 percent opposing the change. In Morgan County, voters backed the amendment with a slightly wider margin, 55.85 percent in favor to 44.15 percent against.
A second amendment, to provide legislative oversight for the state’s judiciary budget, had strong backing statewide, with 72 percent of voters favoring it. Morgan County voters back it even more strongly, with 76 percent of votes cast in favor of the amendment, which will allow state lawmakers to review the Supreme Court’s annual budget as part of annual state budget proceedings.
Appointees win court posts
Two political appointees to the West Virginia Supreme Court were elected to serve out the unexpired terms of retired justices Robin Davis and Menis Ketchum, both of whom announced their retirements during recent court shake-ups.
Former Speaker of the House of Delegates, Republican Tim Armstead won a 10-way race for a seat on the state’s highest court with 26 percent of the vote. Governor Jim Justice had appointed Armstead to the court on August 25 to fill Ketchum’s seat until the general election. Armstead will now serve on the court through 2020.
Former U.S. Congressman Evan Jenkins won the second seat on the Supreme Court of Appeals in last week’s election, beating out nine other candidates with 36 percent of the vote. Republican Jenkins resigned his position in Congress to take the judicial appointment from Governor Justice in August. Jenkins will now serve out the unexpired term of retired justice Robin Davis on the bench, putting him on the state judiciary through 2024.
All vote totals on election night are preliminary. The Morgan County Commission will canvass the vote on Tuesday, November 13.