Bill Maloney, a Republican running on an anti-establishment ticket, has enough momentum to become the next governor in true-blue West Virginia, party insiders hope.
Even though Maloney never has run for office, he is just one point behind the Democratic incumbent in the election on Tuesday, according to a new Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey.
And Maloney, one of the men behind the rescue of 33 trapped Chilean miners last year, has enough support among registered Democrats to snatch victory from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in the special election, Maloney’s campaign staffers believe.
“The Democrat says he’s been around in politics for 36 years, and that’s true, but 34 of those years have been pretty lousy for West Virginians,” one Maloney staffer told Newsmax. “The thing about this campaign is we are not against the Democratic Party because there are too many Democrats in the state – we are against the establishment.”
Democrat Tomblin has gained nearly all the major endorsements in the state, including the NRA, the Chamber of Commerce, the state’s Medical Association, Coal Association, and other trade groups. Newspapers, including Maloney’s hometown Morgantown Dominion Post, also lined up behind him.
But Maloney is turning that support against his opponent, saying it is not necessarily good to have establishment backing.
“The only people who have done well in West Virginia are the members of the establishment,” said Maloney’s aide.” They still go on their expenses-paid trips and have their expensive dinners. The rest of us are suffering, the state is near the bottom in every category and Bill Maloney is saying that just isn’t good enough.”
Tomblin has been acting governor for 11 months. A career politician, he was elected to the West Virginia House when he was only 22. He was president of the West Virginia Senate for 15 years and stepped up after then-Gov. Joe Manchin was elected to the U.S. Senate to complete the term of the late Sen. Robert Byrd. The winner on Tuesday will face re-election in November 2012.
Democrats have long ruled the state holding the Governorship for 58 of the last 78 years. The party has held the House since 1930 and the Senate since 1933.
Maloney, 52, ran North American Drillers, a company that provided large diameter equipment for the coal, oil, and natural gas industries. He sold the company five years ago but joined in the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for 69 days last year.
Maloney credits his experience in Chile for making him realize he wanted to do something more with his life. “We rescued 33 miners in Chile,” he told The Washington Times. “It’s time to rescue 1.8 million West Virginians from that deep dark hole we’ve been in too long.”
And he has been gaining gradually on Tomblin in opinion polls — he had narrowed a 14 point gap in May to 6 points by September and is now down to just one point. The PPP survey showed that Maloney has held steady with both Republicans and independents, picking up virtually all his new support from registered Democrats.
“Maloney has proven to be a pretty appealing candidate,” PPP said in a release accompanying the results today. “This race is pretty unusual for the current political climate in that the electorate has a positive opinion of both candidates. But the momentum has been exclusively on Maloney's side over the course of the past five months.
“It looks like this race could go either way tomorrow. Maloney's biggest enemy might be the clock — given the overwhelming momentum he's had another month and you have to think he would almost definitely pull out this race. But Tomblin may yet be able to hang on by the skin of his teeth.”
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