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W. Virginia Governor’s Race Tightens in Weeks Before Special Election

Comstock/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON, W.Va.) -- While the nation begins to focus its collective microscope on the 2012 presidential race, West Virginians have set their sights on the state’s gubernatorial special election, for which early voting begins Wednesday.

In a state that voted Republican in the past three presidential elections, the Democratic candidate, acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, still has a slight edge in the polls over his Republican rival, businessman Bill Maloney, although Ray’s lead has been cut in half in the past month.

Tomblin, the president of the state Senate, became the acting governor last November after former Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin won a special election for the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s seat.

Republican Governors Association spokesman Mike Schrimpf said that for Democrats to lose the governor seat that Manchin gave up would be “devastating on its face.”

But as the race enters the home stretch before the Oct. 4 election, Maloney’s campaign has stepped up its efforts to link Tomblin with the national branch of his party. The Republican Governors Association has dropped almost $770,000 on the West Virginia race, according to the West Virginia Gazzette.

Democratic Governor Association spokesman Lis Smith said Republicans’ attempt to tie Tomblin to national Democrats is “a real stretch.” The DGA has spent upward of $630,000 on the race, according to the Gazzette report.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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