Mollohan gets a primary challenger

February 1, 2010

Democratic state Senator Mike Oliverio will challenge 14-term Democratic Congressman Alan Mollohan in the May primary, MetroNews reported this morning.

That is terrible news for the already financially challenged Mollohan campaign. He is, however, the 24th richest member of the House, so maybe he will have to loan himself money — except much of his money is tied up in real estate.

This is the first major challenge to Mollohan since he had to run against then-Congressman Harley Staggers Jr. in the 1992 Democratic primary after redistricting reduced West Virginia to 3 congressmen instead of 4.

“I’ve spent many restless nights trying to ignore the call I have felt,” Oliverio told Morgantown AM hosts Jim Stallings and Kay Murray on Metronews affiliate WAJR-AM. “After considerable prayer and extensive conversations with family and friends I know that there needs to be a change in the way that Washington works. All of us have seen the problems coming out of Washington — incredible debt, irresponsible activity and I just feel like the best way I can serve my family, my state, my country is to run for this position.”

Oliverio is a 14-year veteran of the state Legislature who twice ran for secretary of state — in 2000 and 2004 — losing in the primaries to now-Gov. Joe Manchin and now-Secretary of State Natalie Tennant.

Oliverio is a fiscally conservative Democrat who has friends among Republicans. As the Republicans have a competitive race, I doubt his Republicans friends will register as independents to vote in the primary.

The FBI investigated Mollohan for 4 years  for accepting donations from friends and former employees and then earmarking money to them — about a quarter-billion dollars over the years.

Last month, the FBI dropped the case with no criminal charges filed.

Mollohan continued to accept donations from earmark recipients.

West Virginia Watchdog reported this campaign cycle’s money included: “$9,600 from employees and family members associated with Information Manufacturing Corporation, with offices in the Alan B. Mollohan Innovation Center in Fairmont, W.Va. For the last six months of IMC donated a total of $19,200. IMC received over $84 million in Mollohan-directed earmarks between 2000 and 2008. The contracts were for work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, whose budget Mollohan controls.

“$6,900 from employees and family members associated with Robison International. Robison is a lobbyist firm that represents many of the companies at the Mollohan Innovation Center. The Robert H. Mollohan Family Charitable Foundation named one of their funds after the founder of Robison, retired Marine General Randall West. Employees of Robison have donated over $34,000 to Mollohan over the years and donated $13,800 for the last half of 2009.”

Legal fees from the FBI investigation have depleted his campaign funds, and the investigation turned off donors.

He had $64,599 cash on hand as the new year began.

A challenge by Oliverio will force him to spend that and raise more funds. It means Democrats will enter the general election with a money challenged candidate be that Mollohan or Oliverio.

I think this seat could flip to Republicans, as Northern West Virginia is considered the most Republican area in the state — more Republican than the Central West Virginia district now served by Republican Shelley Moore Capito.
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