PRINCETON — Change didn’t hit the White House Tuesday night, but it swept through Mercer County’s state delegation in Charleston.
In a region once a Democrat stronghold, Republicans took all three of Mercer County’s District 27 seats in the House of Delegates. Likewise, Republican Bill Cole claimed the District 6 state Senate seat against incumbent Democrat Mark Wills.
Shott, of Bluefield, was the top vote-getter in the six-way race for three positions in a newly redistricted District 27. He tallied 10,793 votes in unofficial returns.
“It’s a relief, and it’s really a privilege to be able to represent these fine people who live and work in District 27,” Shott said.
With portions of one House term and a stint in the state Senate under his political belt, Shott understands how frustrating West Virginia’s one-party system is at times. He hopes that a political shift throughout the region will help that situation.
“Hopefully, there will be enough change statewide that we’ll be more relevant,” he said.
He emphasized that Republicans don’t need a majority in order to make a large impact on state government.
“I truly believe that the best decisions are made with the most input from everyone. We don’t have to agree with everything everyone says, but we do need to hear all sides,” Shott said.
Incumbent Joe Ellington brought home the second-most votes in the House District 27 campaign. The Princeton physician who ran with a theme declaring, “He delivers,” totaled 9,733 Mercer County votes.
He estimated that seven Republican lawmakers will hail from the southern portion of West Virginia.
“That’ll give us a nice little block, hopefully, to push some things through,” Ellington said, adding that he is grateful he’ll get to continue his work in Charleston. “I appreciate the people of Mercer County and the people who gave me their support so that I can keep working for them.”
Gearheart, who garnered 9,090 votes to round out the District 27 delegation, said he is excited to return to Charleston to serve the people of his region.
“We certainly feel like we’ve got a lot to work on and can go a long way toward improving our circumstances in southern West Virginia,” Gearheart said.
While political watchers on hand at the Courthouse speculated that West Virginia’s predominant anti-Obama sentiment took its toll on the local Democrats, Gearheart credited the growth of conservative sentiment.
Democrat Ryan Flanigan returned the most votes in the District 27 race, with 7,621. Greg Ball tallied 5,862, and Bill Morefield brought in 5,367 votes to close out the contest.
On the Senate side, Cole defeated incumbent Wills by a margin of 16,384 votes to 12,967, spread throughout portions of the District 6’s counties of Mercer, McDowell, Mingo and Wayne.
“I think this shows that West Virginia, in general, is ready for change,” Cole said. “It’s no secret that West Virginia has been a one-party system for the last 80 years, and that doesn’t work very well.”
Cole, who owns and operates a series of businesses, including Cole Auto Mall, has said that he will make job retention and creation key points in his term. He told the Princeton Times prior to the race that jobs are the solution to most of the ails West Virginia faces.
In other local races, Republican A. Gene Buckner bested Democrat Terry Hughes for his chance to hold the Mercer County Commission seat he sought two years ago when Commissioner Karen Disibbio retired.
Buckner filed for the contest using his Bluefield residence but moved out of the Commission district prior to the election. As such, the Mercer County Circuit Court and the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled Buckner was not eligible to run or win the election.
His opponent, Mike Vinciguerra, of Bluefield, was appointed to the spot amid the debate.
Tuesday, Buckner won the position, this time in the Princeton district currently served by Commissioner Jay Mills. His ballots counted 11,503 to Hughes’ 8,753.
In another upset, Republican magistrate candidate Sandra Dorsey bested incumbent Magistrate Charles Poe, 10,083 to 9,190.
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