A Democratic Congressman Is Defeated

By twelve percentage points, Democrats forced Rep. Alan Mollohan from his West Virginia congressional seat last night. State Sen. Steve Oliverio received 56% of the vote to Mollohan's 44%. If you don't count Bart Stupak's retirement, Mollohan was the first Democrat hounded out of his office in part due to his vote for health care reform.

But as is the case with primary elections, a welter of local and national factors played a role.

West Virginia's first congressional district includes a large contingent of pro-life Democrats who felt betrayed by the health care vote.

Mollohan dawdled on cap-and-trade, waiting until just about the last moment to come out against the Waxman-Markey climate change bill. This is West Virginia's mine country, and his delay in defending his district's interests cost him.

Finally, as a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee official said last night, Mollohan did not appreciate the magnitude of his re-election challenge until a month ago, a bit too late to do much.

Then there's ethics. Mollohan has faced his share of charges over the years, although he's never been found guilty of anything. Oliverio called Mollohan "corrupt" in a television advertisement.

Anti-Washington, anti-Incumbent sentiment is prevalent among Democrats, too. Mollohan has been in Congress for 28 years. Note than 32% of Democrats in Nick Rahall's West Virginia district voted against the incumbent, too.

Presented by

Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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