Senator Jay Rockefeller’s retirement at the end of 2014 gives West Virginia Republicans an opportunity to end one of their party’s longest losing streaks.
Republicans have lost 21 consecutive Senate races in West Virginia, spanning more than half a century. That includes five contests to Rockefeller and nine to the legendary Democrat Robert C. Byrd, who died in 2010.
You have to go all the way back to 1956 to find the last Republican victor in a West Virginia Senate race. That was Chapman Revercomb, who won a special election that year and was unseated by Byrd in 1958.
While Democrats have dominated Senate races and hold most statewide offices in West Virginia, Republicans have made major inroads in federal races, partly because many residents view the Democratic Party unfavorably on environmental policy.
Senator Joe Manchin and Representative Nick J. Rahall II, both Democrats, were re-elected in 2012 after distancing themselves from President Barack Obama, who won just 36 percent of the West Virginia vote and became the first presidential nominee in history to lose all 55 counties. Republicans hold two of the three U.S. House seats.