Ojeda tops US House race for Dems; Miller wins GOP primary

By John Raby and Jonathan Mattise

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Democratic state Sen. Richard Ojeda won his party’s nomination in the 3rd Congressional District in West Virginia on Tuesday, while state Delegate Carol Miller narrowly emerged from the crowded Republican field for the open U.S. House seat that snakes through the state’s southern coalfields.

The district, whose voters strongly backed President Donald Trump in 2016, is being vacated by Republican Congressman Evan Jenkins, who ran for U.S. Senate.

Ojeda beat state Delegate Shirley Love, Huntington bus service CEO Paul Davis and nurse Janice Hagerman in Tuesday’s primary.

Meanwhile, Miller won the Republican contest that stayed tight with Delegates Rupie Phillips and Marty Gearheart, and former state party chairman Conrad Lucas remaining in the mix. Former Delegate Rick Snuffer, Dr. Ayne Amjad of Beckley and Philip Payton of Milton also were on the GOP ballot.

Miller was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2006 and has been re-elected every two years after that.

Miller also is a bison farmer, small business owner and daughter of the late Ohio Congressman Samuel Devine. She raised the most money in the Republican field.

Ojeda, the top Democratic fundraiser in the race, became popular with state teachers for backing their efforts to win better pay and health benefits. Teachers ultimately won a 5 percent pay increase after a nine-day strike, and their success ignited similar teacher walkouts in other states.

A retired Army major, Ojeda’s facial bones were broken when he was attacked at a Logan County political cookout days before the 2016 primary. Jonathan Porter of Holden, was sentenced to up to five years in prison after authorities said he hit Ojeda from behind with a pipe and brass knuckles, then tried to run him over with a pickup truck.

In the state’s other two U.S. House races, Democratic challengers advanced to November matchups with Republican congressmen who had no primary opposition.

In the primary for the 1st Congressional District, Kendra Fershee, a West Virginia University law professor and an associate dean of academic affairs, defeated retired law firm CEO Ralph Baxter and Martinsburg attorney Tom Payne. She will face Republican Congressman David McKinley in November for the northern West Virginia seat.

In the 2nd Congressional District, former Hillary Clinton 2016 state presidential campaign director Talley Sergent beat Aaron Scheinberg, a former Army captain and ex-director of a nonprofit that links veterans and community groups. Sergent will meet Republican Congressman Alex Mooney in November for the district that stretches through the middle of the state.

Also, in the GOP primary for the 4th Senatorial District in West Virginia, incumbent Mark Drennan was defeatead by Eric J. Tarr, 4,068 votes to 4,921, votes, according to vote totals posted by the West Virginia Secretary of State. Tarr will face Democrat Brian Prim and Independent Amy Grady in November for the seat.

Mattise reported from Nashville, Tennessee. The Point Pleasant Register contributed to this report.

By John Raby and Jonathan Mattise