Rahall, Jenkins set to face off in 3rd District Congressional Ra - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Rahall, Jenkins set to face off in 3rd District Congressional Race

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CHARLESTON, WV - One of the most anticipated and hotly contested races this fall will be the third district congressional race in the United States Congress.

With an expected push for a power shift in Washington, incumbent Nick Rahall’s seat will be one that gets national attention. It’s been reported to be one of seven early targets listed by the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2014.

The Associated Press declared Rahall the winner of the Democratic primary, outdistancing challenger Richard Ojeda of Logan County. Unofficial results showed Rahall at 66.4 percent and Ojeda 33.6 percent.

He’ll go up against Evan Jenkins, a former state senator, in November’s general election, who ran unopposed in the Republican primary.

Many believe that Rahall could be up against his stiffest competition to date.

"This was the surprising showing by the newcomer (Ojeda) in which he got (nearly) 40 percent of the vote against a 19-term incumbent while running a very low-key campaign," said Robert Rupp, an election analyst and political science professor at West Virginia Wesleyan College. "That might indicate the fact that Rahall was already facing his toughest challenge since 1990. This suggests, when you have more than one third of the Dems in the primary voting for his opponent, might suggest another obstacle the incumbent has to face. At some point, maybe now, it’s that question that again we have regionalism, in the general election will be Huntington versus Raleigh County."

One of Rahall’s challenges in his own state has been distancing himself from President Barack Obama, an unpopular Democrat in a historically democratic West Virginia.

“I am honored to receive this nomination, the lines in this campaign are now clearly drawn: it's West Virginia working families against out-of-state billionaires and their puppet, Evan Jenkins,” Rahall said in a statement. “Billionaires from New York City will do everything they can to try and tear us down, because they know that no one stands stronger in Washington against their reckless agenda that threatens our workers, our seniors, our coal miners and our economy. But I have news for them -- the voices of West Virginia working families are infinitely stronger than their shadowy money, and we welcome this fight to protect our West Virginia way of life.”

Rahall, a Raleigh County native, was first elected to Congress in 1976. Serving his 19th term, he is the youngest-elected, longest-serving member in the history of the House.

Jenkins changed his party affiliation from Democrat to file for the 3rd District Congressional race in July. He has served both sides of the House in Charleston, elected as a member of the House of Delegates in 1994 and in 2002, he was elected to the Senate. His term in the state senate is up, so he has pushed all of his chips to the center of the bale in this race.

“After 38 years, West Virginians are ready to send a problem-solver to Washington who will put their interests first — not the president’s or any political party's," Jenkins said in a release. "I look forward to debating Congressman Rahall on the many critical issues facing our state, including his votes for the ObamaCare disaster, his advancement of the War on Coal, and the questions raised about his integrity by the dishonest and hypocritical campaign he and his anti-coal billionaire allies have run to date.”

Ojeda of Holden challenged Rahall in the Democratic primary. The Logan County resident recently retired as an officer in the U.S. Army with 24 years of service.

Ojeda said that many times after returning home to southern West Virginia from duties in locations such as Haiti, he grew increasingly frustrated.

“I’m tired of watching everything decline around us here,” he said Tuesday before results began coming in. “When I returned, I found that things were progressively growing worse in southern West Virginia.”

Being a newcomer to politics would be an asset to his race, Ojeda expected.

“Rahall has not represented the people in southern West Virginia,” Ojeda said. “That made me decide that I’m a better leader than him. I served as an officer in the U.S. Army for the past 17 years.

“Anytime that Rahall has run for re-election, it’s always been against another career politician,” Ojeda added. “That’s why I chose to throw my hat in this race. Rahall only comes around during election time to try to dupe us out of our votes. I think I can beat this guy, if the people show up that have pledged their support to me.”