West Virginia's gubernatorial race is shaping up into a barn burner of a contest for next fall. In Tuesday's voting, Republican Gov. Arch Moore and Democrat Gaston Caperton, an insurance executive, won their respective party primaries. They will face off next November in what is expected to be a close race.
But West Virginia voters did not endorse either candidate overwhelmingly - a reflection, perhaps, of widespread dissatisfaction with the state's budget problems.
In the GOP primary, Governor Moore faced a stiff challenge from businessman John Raese. With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Moore took 53 percent of the vote to Mr. Raese's 47 percent.
Democrats, meanwhile, picked Mr. Caperton from a crowded field of seven candidates. Caperton tallied 37 percent of the vote; his main rival, Clyde See, a former speaker of the House, got 27 percent of the vote with 99 percent of the districts reporting.
Caperton and See have waged a bitter personal battle of negative television ads in recent weeks, but the issues debated next fall will most likely revolve around the West Virginia's economy, party officials say.
``The issue is going to be who can make state government work,'' says Arch Riley, Democratic chairman of Ohio County.
In the past two years, Moore and the Legislature have been unable to resolve their differences over cutting the state budget and education reform.
Like races in many other states, the West Virginia governor's election will probably be heavily influenced by the race for president. Four years ago, Moore swept into office on the coattails of Ronald Reagan despite the fact that West Virginia is an overwhelmingly Democratic state.
But West Virginia's raucous brand of politics could also play a significant role in the race. The state has been preoccupied in recent weeks with a federal investigation of political corruption in Mingo County in which a slew of elected officials have been indicted.
Last Sunday, NBC broadcast a report in which a Mingo County political boss said that in 1972 Moore offered him $12,000 to include him on a list of recommended candidates.
A Moore spokesman called the report ``a piece of garbage.''