Steve Williamsel is the first Democrat to enter the West Virginia gubernatorial race

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Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said Monday that he plans to run for governor of West Virginia, becoming the first (and so far only) Democratic candidate in the field eight months before the primary election.

Williams announced his candidacy for governor during the United Mine Workers of America's 84th annual Labor Day celebration in Racine, media outlets reported.

Seven Republicans have filed pre-candidacy papers and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has announced that he will seek the position of governor .

Filing pre-candidacy documents allows campaigns to begin fundraising and requires them to file campaign finance reports. A candidate is not officially in the race until he files a separate certificate of announcement and pays a $1,500 filing fee. The official submission deadline is next January.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice is barred by law from seeking a third consecutive term.

Ben Salango, a Democrat and Kanawha County commissioner who lost to Justice in the 2020 general election, recently announced he will not seek the governorship again.

If no other candidate enters the race, it would be the fewest Democrats running for governor in at least 75 years, although it is not unprecedented for a gubernatorial candidate to run unopposed. Bill Cole was the only candidate when he won the Republican primary in 2016 before losing in the general election to Democrat Jim Justice, who then switched to the GOP seven months after taking office.

Williams was first elected in 2012 and is the first three-term mayor in Huntington's history.

In 2018, he withdrew his candidacy from a race for the U.S. House of Representatives, citing the need to focus full-time on his job as mayor to address the Ohio River city's opioid crisis along with drug-related violence. drugs.

Huntington was once ground zero of the state's addiction epidemic until a rapid response program formed in 2017 reduced the overdose rate. But the COVID-19 pandemic destroyed much of the progress.

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