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Changes in store for Cabell delegation

Aug. 28, 2013 @ 11:05 PM

Cabell County's delegation in the West Virginia Legislature has not seen any turnover since the 2006 election, but that will change next year.

The recent decisions of Delegate Kevin Craig, D-Cabell, to not run for re-election in the 16th District and Sen. Evan Jenkins, R-Cabell, to run for West Virginia's Third Congressional District seat mean that voters will elect a new state senator in the 5th District and at least one new delegate from the 16th, 17th and 18th districts in the House of Delegates.

Combined, those three delegate districts include all of Cabell as well as small portions of northern Wayne and northern Lincoln counties. The 5th District in the Senate includes all of Cabell and a sliver of northern Wayne County.

Those may not be the only changes in store, however. Seventeenth District Delegate Doug Reynolds, D-Wayne, says he is giving serious thought about running for Jenkins' Senate seat in 2014, while Delegate Jim Morgan, D-Cabell, says he remains undecided about whether he will run for re-election in the 16th District.

Reynolds, an attorney and managing member of HD Media Co., which owns The Herald-Dispatch, said he will make a decision on his political future by Oct. 1.

"I'm definitely interested," Reynolds said of the possibility of running for the Senate. "There are fewer senators than delegates, so it's easier to have an impact on policy."

Reynolds acknowledged that a provision in the West Virginia Constitution would require him to move from his home in northern Wayne County to Cabell County before he filed to run for the Senate early next year. Reynolds' current residence falls within the 5th Senatorial District, but the district's other representative, Sen. Bob Plymale, also lives in Wayne County. The Constitution says that senators in a multi-county district cannot live in the same county. The state Supreme Court upheld the provision in a similar case in 2012.

Democrat Mike Woelfel, a Huntington attorney, also has filed pre-candidacy papers to run for the 5th District Senate seat.

If Reynolds leaves the House for a Senate bid, there could be a scramble for the two seats in the 17th District. Democrats maintain a slight 54-46 majority over Republicans in the House. State GOP leaders, however, believe they can wipe out the Democrats' majority next year, when all 100 House seats are up for two-year terms. Republicans gained 11 seats in 2012.

The 17th District's other representative, Delegate Dale Stephens, D-Cabell, said he will run for re-election in 2014. One potential opponent is Huntington City Council Chairman Mark Bates.

"I'm exploring all my options of running in the 17th District, but I'll just have to wait and see how the dominoes fall," said Bates, a Republican. "The city is my first love, but if I can help at a higher level and the city can benefit from it, that would weigh on my decision heavily."

Craig's departure from the House could lead to a highly-contested race for the three seats in the 16th District as well. Delegate Carol Miller, R-Cabell, confirmed that she will run for re-election in the district, saying that a Republican-led House would move the state forward.

Morgan, who has served in the House of Delegates since 2001 and is the chamber's Government Organization Committee chairman, says he has no interest in running for the Senate seat and remains uncommitted on a re-election bid in the 16th District.

"It is my hope to continue serving the people of Cabell County in the House of Delegates, but we'll have to see what the conditions are," Morgan said.

Republican Dale Anderson II and Democrat Riley McCormick have filed pre-candidacy papers to run for the 16th District. Others who said they are considering running include Democrat Dave Ball, a Huntington city councilman, and Democrat Sean Hornbuckle, who ran in the 16th District in 2012 and came within 700 votes of claiming one of the district's three seats.

In the single-delegate 18th District, incumbent Kelli Sobonya said she has no plans to run for Jenkins' seat and instead will focus on her re-election bid in the House. The Republican, who is serving her sixth consecutive term, said she wants to remain in the House because she believes the GOP will gain control of the chamber in 2014.

"I would hate for my one seat to be the deciding factor in West Virginia being able to join other states in being economically prosperous and end the cycle of poverty we've experienced for over three-fourths of a century," Sobonya said.

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.




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