West Virginia state Sen. Bill Cole has decided not to challenge Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.V., next year, robbing national Republicans of one of their early recruits for a seat that tops their list this cycle.
Though only a freshman legislator, Cole is a rising name in the state party and a strong fundraiser. As we reported, Cole was being recruited by the National Republican Congressional Committee to challenge Rahall back in April. He announced his decision on "Metronews Talkline," a Charleston radio show hosted by political columnist Hoppy Kercheval, this morning. Cole's office confirmed the decision.
With Cole out, there is no obvious Republican candidate to take on Rahall in 2014. But both NRCC spokesman Ian Prior and West Virginia Republican Party chairman Conrad Lucas said they have spoken to several potential candidates who are interested in running for the seat. Both also declined to reveal any names. Lucas said he received phone calls from three potential candidates in just three hours today. "There's a bit of a frenzy at the moment," Lucas said, noting that several potentials had been deferring to Cole. "We have plenty of time now," he said, to find a candidate.
"Yes, we definitely have several people that are interested in sending Nick Rahall to early retirement -- or possibly a late retirement, depending on how you look at it," Prior said.
The NRCC has made Rahall one of its top targets for the cycle. They've already released a television spot targeting him and have named him to their "Red Zone" program of the seven most vulnerable Democrats in the House. Rahall won reelection in 2012 by almost eight points, but Pres. Obama lost the Third District by more than 30 points. Republicans are confident that if they can find the right candidate, they can oust him.
Former state Delegate Rick Snuffer, who lost to Rahall last year, is considering a bid.