West Virginia industrialist John Raese (R) has decided not to attempt a fifth run for statewide office in this year's special gubernatorial election. His decision leaves Secretary of State Betty Ireland (R) the frontrunner in the Republican primary.
Bluefield Mayor and radio host Craig Hammond had launched a "Draft John Raese for Governor" movement in late January, encouraging people to call Raese's offices to show support for his candidacy. The Draft Raese movement was symptomatic of a desire for a more conservative alternative in the Republican primary field: Ireland is considered too moderate by many Republicans. The only other Republican candidates announced so far are state Sen. Clark Barnes (R) and Putnam County Prosecutor Mark Sorsaia (R).
Raese may have been discouraged by a late January poll that showed his favorable to unfavorable rating with West Virginia voters was 30 percent to 52 percent.
But now that acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) has signed finally legislation setting the primary and general election dates this year, candidates will have to file this week -- so there's little time for another big name conservative candidate to enter the race.