WHEELING - West Virginia Auditor Glen B. Gainer III will announce plans to challenge incumbent Rep. David McKinley for his House seat in 2014, according to local Democrat Party officials.
Gainer, a Democrat from Parkersburg who has held his current office since 1993, is expected to make an official announcement at 1 p.m. today at the First State Capitol Building on Eoff Street in downtown Wheeling.
Neither Gainer nor McKinley could be reached Thursday for comment.
John Saunders, co-chairman of the Ohio County Democrat Party, said Gainer's candidacy is "exciting for the party." With public confidence in Congress at near-historic lows following last month's government shutdown, he believes the time is right to take back the seat Democrats held for the 42 years prior to McKinley's election in 2010.
"I think people are looking for different options, and this gives them an opportunity to make a clear choice on how to turn this country around," Saunders said.
Saunders noted Gainer has plenty of experience on statewide ballots, and he believes Gainer is a strong candidate with the name recognition and fundraising ability to pose a formidable challenge to McKinley, R-Wheeling, who would be seeking a third consecutive term in the House representing West Virginia's 1st District. Saunders also believes Gainer will do well in his native Wood County, potentially neutralizing a traditionally strong Republican influence there.
In 2010, McKinley won a tightly contested general election race with Mike Oliverio, who defeated longtime Rep. Alan Mollohan in the Democrat primary, to earn his first term in the House. In 2012, he defeated Wheeling Democrat Sue Thorn handily, winning in each of the 1st District's 20 counties and garnering at least 60 percent of the vote in all but four of them.
"With the right candidate, we think we can win that seat," Saunders said. "Now we have a viable candidate."
Gainer, 53, spent four years with the state Treasurer's Office, another three with the state Department of Energy and a year in the private sector before succeeding his father as auditor in 1993.
His current duties include serving as the state's official bookkeeper, securities commissioner and commissioner of delinquent and non-entered lands, and overseeing financial audits of county and local governments. He is married with two sons.
In his six prior victories, Gainer ran unopposed in the general election three times - in 1992, 1996 and 2000. His most serious challenge came last year against Republican Larry Faircloth, when he still won 57 percent of the vote.
In West Virginia, the official filing period for the 2014 election is Jan. 13-25.