WEST VIRGINIA -- A MULTI-PARTY STATE
FROM 1940 until 1956, West Virginia had four primary political groupings, mainly: 1) the United Mine Workers, labor, or "liberals"; 2) the Bourbons, rural or "conservative" Democrats; 3) the Statehouse or Neely-Hanna faction of the Democratic party; and 4) the Republican party. In terms of the two-party system, the coal miners, Bourbons, and Statehouse people were all Democrats. However, the contests between labor, the Bourbons, and the Statehouse faction for control of the state's Democratic party decided the question, "Who shall rule?" What follows is both a chronicle of the factional conflicts within the state's Democratic party and an analysis of the consequences in terms of party structure and organization. The analysis is in terms of the pre-1956 period. However, subsequent events, such as the Republican victory in the 1956 gubernatorial election, have not changed the nature of the fundamental political division within the state.
In 1955, most West Virginians, if asked to name the state's principal political figures, would have nominated Senator Matthew M. Neely, an ageless veteran of West Virginia politics; Homer Hanna, Clerk of the Federal Court in Charleston and owner of an insurance agency; Walter Hallanan, Republican National Committeeman from West Virginia and President of the Plymouth Oil Company; and William Blizzard,