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Wise enjoyed benefits of party loyalty

by Shawn Gainer

STAFF WRITER

Political observers believe that Bob Wise's victory in the gubernatorial race and Shelley Moore Capito's win for U.S. Congress came about for different reasons.

In the absence of perceived major differences between the candidates, party loyalty may have been a major reason for Wise's victory, said Dr. Robert Behrman, a professor of political science at Marshall University.

"Governor Underwood did get substantial support from Democrats or it wouldn't have been as close," Behrman said. "In the end, there weren't really any big issues dividing the candidates and there wasn't a personality issue between Wise and Underwood, either.

"Without a lot of other influences, it seems like traditional party loyalty carried the day," he said.

Behrman added that despite some defections to Underwood, the Democratic party was much more united behind Wise than the party was behind Charlotte Pritt in 1996. Pritt's gubernatorial candidacy split Democrats along labor-business lines.

Libby Stout, a longtime Democratic activist and member of the Harrison County Democratic Executive Committee, also said the Wise campaign was much less fractious than Pritt's. Stout thinks Underwood may have experienced a backlash from the large number of grants he distributed during the general election campaign.

"I think it had a backlash because people thought he was trying to buy his way in," Stout said. "I think people appreciated the money, but the principle caused the break there."

David Tyson, chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Executive Committee, believes Wise was aided by name recognition in the 2nd District that came from his many years as a congressman.

"Underwood lost the 2nd Congressional District. People there were used to voting for Bob Wise for 18 years," Tyson said.

Tyson added that he thought the "strong arm of Democratic congressmen" was also a factor, in reference to Wise's campaign support from Senators Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Alan Mollohan.

Concerning the Second District congressional campaign, both Behrman and Tyson said Jim Humphreys' massive campaign spending, estimated by Tyson at $6 million, may have worked against him.

"I think what hurt Humphreys was that his ads were on for so long," Behrman said.

"Toward the end, the ads got really nasty from both sides. But people had been hearing and seeing negative ads from Humphreys since March and April, partly because he had a tough primary."

Staff Writer Shawn Gainer can be reached at 626-1442 or by e-mail at sgainer@exponent-telegram.com.

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