Alan Mollahan Loses, West Virginia Democrats Send 28-Year Incumbent Packing

West Virginia CongressThe anti-incumbent fever that we’ve seen mostly in the Republican Party of late is also manifesting itself in the Democratic Party, as evidenced by last night’s stunning primary loss by 14 term incumbent Congressman Alan Mollohan:

Rep. Alan Mollohan, a 14-term incumbent, has been defeated by state Sen. Mike Oliverio in West Virginia’s Democratic primary, according to the Associated Press.

With 97 percent of the vote in, Oliverio led Mollohan 56 percent to 44 percent.

Mollohan’s decisive loss — a stunning rebuke for a veteran appropriator who has held his seat for nearly three decades – comes just days after Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) lost his bid for renomination. Mollohan, the son of a congressman, had typically coasted in his re-election bids.

Oliverio had cast Mollohan as a creature of Washington and blasted the veteran incumbent over his ethics, repeatedly calling him “one of the most corrupt congressmen.”

In coal-dependent West Virginia, Mollohan also found himself taking heat for the ambitious Democratic push for climate change legislation. In the final weeks leading up to the primary, Oliverio was endorsed by a handful of area newspapers that pointedly criticized Mollohan for not speaking out more strongly against the cap-and-trade bill and for not voting against the bill until the last minute.

Mollohan’s vote in favor of the health care reform bill also seems to have come back to bite him:

Mollohan also found himself under fire from his former allies in the pro-life movement, who targeted the veteran congressman over his support for the health care reform bill. The Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group, launched radio ads and robo-calls in the district targeting Mollohan during the primary. West Virginians for Life pulled their longtime support for him and endorsed Oliverio.

“Just as Bart Stupak did, Congressman Mollohan now fully realizes that votes do have consequences. Mollohan’s loss comes as a direct result of his vote for healthcare reform that included federal funding of abortion,” SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement. “This should be just another sign to ‘pro-life’ Democrats that voted for the healthcare bill that they will face the same consequences as Stupak and Mollohan.”

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Mollohan’s defeat is the fact that the voters choose to get rid of a Congressman who, as member of the House Appropriations Committee played a key role in directing Federal aid and projects to West Virginia. That’s just not something you see very often, and likely an indication that incumbents at all levels have reason to be concerned about their jobs this November.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, Climate Change, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. John Cole says:

    Lived in this district my whole life, and it has been turning redder. I would not at all be surprised to see McKinley win.

    Oliverio is going to have a really hard time getting the base out for him, especially with his declaration that he wouldn’t support Pelosi.

    In addition, while it has been two decades since I talked to McKinley, he is not what I would call one of the haters. He is a staunch conservative, a businessman, but he is not one of the new breed of Glenn Beck/teabagger/idiocracy Republicans. He will have a lot of cross-over appeal, particularly when you consider he is basically running against a DINO.

  2. Steve Plunk says:

    I think anti-incumbent fever may be limited to those who voted for health care reform, support cap and trade, turn a blind eye to illegal immigration, and don’t get it on the economy. That means it’s Democrats and wishy washy Republicans who need worry.

  3. SoFedUp says:

    I think a lot of voters currently have a “throw the bums out” mindset. Usually, voters like their own bum and only want to get rid of the other bums. The losses by Bennett and Mohollan may just be a sneak peak of a change in this attitude. Given the level of distrust the public has of Washington, the 2010 mid-terms are going to be pretty interesting.

  4. mannning says:

    A peacetime explosion of spending such as we have incurred in this year, that virtually every Democrat joyfully voted for multiple times, is bound to have repercussions in the Fall. Such mindless and dangerous escalation of our national debt, sparked by the Democratic leadership, mainly Pelosi and Reid and cheered on by Obama, will be taken into account by the public everywhere. Sense and sensibility may be forthcoming for a refreshing change. Hopefully, just in time, too, to save the economy.

    Perhaps we can find some congressmen this time that do not believe money grows on taxpayer’s trees. Perhaps we can find some that do not want millions and millions for earmarks, too.

    I doubt it, though, if they are Tax and Spend Democrats.

  5. Matt says:

    Wait we’re suddenly in a peace time? Why because a Democrat is now president? Holy crap Obama brought world peace just by being elected ALL HAIL OBAMA THE GREAT PEACEMAKER!!.. Seriously though that’s some ridiculous spin you’re trying there. Putting the actual cost of the wars and such on the books instead of asking for emergency spending and hoping no one will try to track the actual cost is such bullshit right?

    I’d rather have a tax and spend Democrat then a borrow and spend Republican. AT least one is being somewhat fiscally responsible..

    I can see you’re already laying the groundwork to claim any economic recovery as the result of republicans winning seats in the mid term..