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West Virginia GOP Senate president, doctor who opposed drawing back vaccine laws ousted in election

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West Virginia GOP Senate president, doctor who opposed drawing back vaccine laws ousted in election


CHARLESTON, W.Va (AP) — West Virginia Republican voters ousted the state Senate president during Tuesday’s primary elections, as well as an incumbent doctor who drew fire for breaking with his party over school vaccination policy.

In the state’s eastern panhandle, U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret veteran Tom Willis defeated Republican Senate President Craig Blair, who has helmed the chamber since 2021. And State Health and Human Resources Chair Sen. Mike Maroney was defeated by Chris Rose, a former coal miner and power utility company electrician.

Maroney’s loss came after he publicly advocated against a bill pushed by the Republican caucus that would have allowed some students who don’t attend traditional public institutions or participate in group extracurriculars like sports to be exempt from vaccinations typically required for children starting day care or school.

West Virginia is only one of a handful of states in the U.S. that offers only medical exemptions to vaccine requirements. Maroney, a radiologist from Marshall County, called the bill “an embarrassment” on the Senate floor and said he believed lawmakers were harming the state.

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Messages left for Willis, Blair, Maroney and Rose weren’t immediately returned Wednesday.

What to know about the 2024 Election

All 100 seats in the state House of Delegates were up for a vote, and 17 out of 34 state Senate seats. Fourteen Republican incumbents were up for reelection, with nine facing challengers. Four incumbents lost to challengers, including Blair, Maroney, Sen. Robert Karnes and Sen. Chandler Swope.

At least four Republican incumbents lost their House of Delegates primaries: Diana Winzenreid, David Adkins, Heather Tully and Don Forsht.

In one of the most contested races of the night, Republican incumbent Sen. Patricia Rucker narrowly defeated Del. Paul Espinosa. Espinosa was recruited to run for the state Senate after Rucker said she planned to challenge Blair for the Senate presidency. Facing pressure from Blair and other Senate leaders, she later dropped out of the Senate president race, but she was removed as Senate education committee chair.

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Rucker endorsed Willis in his matchup against Blair.

Unaffiliated voters have been allowed to participate in Republican primaries in West Virginia since 1986, but this year marked the last time they could do that. The state GOP voted in January to close its primary to registered Republicans only starting in 2026. According to the secretary of state’s website, 24.7% of West Virginia registered voters have no party affiliation.

That last chance to vote in the GOP primary for unaffiliated voters could be one reason for an apparent jump in voter participation this year. According to unofficial totals, more than 224,000 West Virginia adults voted in the GOP presidential race. That compares with 198,000 in the 2020 GOP presidential primary and 157,000 in 2016.

In Maroney’s race, Rose had the backing of West Virginians for Health Freedom, a group that advocates against vaccine mandates.

During the debate about this year’s vaccine bill, which was ultimately vetoed by Republican Gov. Jim Justice, Maroney said: “I took an oath to do no harm. There’s zero chance I can vote for this bill.”

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West Virginia law requires children to receive vaccines for chickenpox, hepatitis-b, measles, meningitis, mumps, diphtheria, polio, rubella, tetanus and whooping cough, unless they receive a medical exemption. West Virginia does not require COVID-19 vaccinations.

Alicia West Fancher, a mother who lives in a neighboring district to Maroney’s, is a member of West Virginians for Health Freedom and pushed for Rose’s election, said decisions about vaccines should be made by families, not legislators.

“To me, they’re playing God over the health of my children,” she said. “They don’t get to decide what’s right for my children. I get to decide with God’s help. It’s really sick to me to see all these politicians making health care choices over my family.”

Blair served three terms in the Senate, including the last three years as president. Before that, Blair spent seven years in the House of Delegates.

Willis has served more than two decades with the National Guard and is a real estate attorney. The Hedgesville resident is co-owner of the Glen Ferris Inn overlooking the picturesque Kanawha Falls in Fayette County. In 2018, Willis finished fourth among six candidates in a U.S. Senate GOP primary.

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One man arrested, two people injured after a reported stabbing in Virginia

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One man arrested, two people injured after a reported stabbing in Virginia


Police are investigating a double stabbing in Virginia from over the weekend.

The statement said that officers responded around 2:30am on Sunday to the 200 block of Chestnut Street.

They found a man and woman who had injuries. Crews took them to the hospital in Virginia.

According to investigators, the woman has been discharged with non-life threatening injuries. The man remains hospitalized, but he is considered stable.

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The 48-year-old suspect is in the jail in Virginia.

A bloody knife was recovered inside the bathroom at Rainy Lake Saloon.

The investigation is ongoing.



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No license needed during upcoming Free Fishing Days

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No license needed during upcoming Free Fishing Days


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Free Fishing Days in Virginia are returning!

From June 7 – 9, you can bring your loved ones to the lake or river and enjoy a weekend of fishing without a license.

That’s not the only perk—the restriction on fishing-designated stocked trout waters will be removed during the three Free Fishing Days, according to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.

Typically, you need a license to fish on Virginia’s inland waters if you’re 16 and older, with some exceptions. Organizers say Free Fishing Days is a great opportunity to give fishing a try for free and pick up some tips from experts.

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You can borrow rods, reels, tackle and bait for free on Saturday at Mount Trashmore Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. There will be staff and volunteers at the park to provide instruction and tips.

For more information and other Free Fishing Days events across the commonwealth, click here.





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Virginia Men’s Golf Earns Repeat Appearance in Match Play at NCAA Championships

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Virginia Men’s Golf Earns Repeat Appearance in Match Play at NCAA Championships


One year ago, Virginia men’s golf advanced to the match play stage of the NCAA Championships for the first time ever. This weekend in California, the Cavaliers did it again.

Behind a brilliant opening two rounds of stroke play, Virginia held on to secure its second-consecutive appearance in match play at the 2024 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships at the Omni La Costa Resort North Course in Carlsbad, California. The Cavaliers finished stroke play tied for third and qualified as one of the eight teams (out of 30 schools participating in the NCAA Championships) to advance to the match play bracket.

Virginia will be the No. 3 seed in match play and will take on Auburn in the quarterfinals on Tuesday starting at 10:40am (ET).

After the first round of stroke play, Virginia was tied with Arizona for the lead at 2-over 290 behind a one-under 71 round from George Duangmanee. Round two saw all five golfers shoot quality rounds, led by Ben James and George Duangmanee, who were both one-under for the day, helping the Cavaliers take sole possession of first place at 1-over 577. That marked the first time Virginia has ever been the leader at the halfway point of stroke play at the NCAA Championships.

Illinois used a 6-under 282 team round on Sunday to take the lead, while UVA sat in second at 4-over 868 entering the final day of stroke play. Ben James shot three-under in that third round, putting himself in contention for the individual NCAA title on Monday.

But Virginia experienced a slide on Monday, shooting 7-over 295 in the final round and ultimately finishing in a tie for third place with North Carolina at 11-over 1163. Vanderbilt placed second at +10 and Illinois took first at -6.

Still, the Cavaliers played well enough to keep their season alive and easily advance to the match play stage for the second-consecutive year.

“This is the second year in a row for us to make it to match play,” said UVA head coach Bowen Sargent. “It’s hard because there are so many good teams and so many good coaches and everyone is working hard. You do take a lot of pride in making it to the final eight.”

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Ben James had a chance at the individual title down the stretch of his final round, but recorded pars on each of the final six holes and ultimately finished one stroke behind Georgia Tech’s Hiroshi Tai, who won the individual title. The runner-up finish by James was the second-best ever recorded by a UVA golfer, as Dixon Brooke won the individual title back in 1940.

George Duangmanee finished at 1-over 289, good for 15th place, while Josh Duangmanee was right behind him in 18th place at 2-over 290. Bryan Lee and Deven Patel both shot 12-over 300 and finished tied for 59th.

In 2023, Virginia fell to Florida 3-2 in the match play quarterfinals and the Gators went on to win the 2023 National Championship. Now, the Cavaliers will face a different SEC opponent, but a familiar one. Auburn entered the NCAA Championships as the No. 1 ranked team in the country after winning the Baton Rouge Regional by shooting -21, while Virginia took second at -13. The Tigers placed sixth in stroke place at the NCAA Championships, setting up the quarterfinal meeting with the Cavaliers on Tuesday morning.

See the matchups and tee times for the quarterfinal between Virginia and Auburn below:

Quarterfinal Match Play Lineups (will start on 10th Hole)
Josh Duangmanee (UVA) vs. Carson Bacha (AU) – 7:40 am PT
George Duangmanee (UVA) vs. Brendan Valdes (AU) – 7:50 am PT
Bryan Lee (UVA) vs. Josiah Gilbert (UA) – 8 am PT
Deven Patel (UVA) vs. Jackson Koivun (UA) – 8:10 am PT
Ben James (UVA) vs. J.M. Butler (UA) – 8:20 am PT

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The winner of Virginia-Auburn will take on the winner of Vanderbilt-Ohio State in the semifinals of match play, which will also be played on Tuesday afternoon to determine who will advance to Wednesday’s championship final.

The Golf Channel will provide live coverage of Tuesday’s match play from 1-3:30 pm (ET) for the quarterfinals and from 6-10 pm (ET) for the semifinals.





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