After decades of political evolution, West Virginia’s realignment to a ruby-red Republican bastion is all but complete. Sen. Joe Manchin, the last in a long line of coal-friendly Democrats who once dominated West Virginia’s statewide offices, is heading for the hills after three hard-fought victories on increasingly tough terrain. Manchin’s retirement — assuming he doesn’t change course and run for reelection as an independent — will almost certainly hand Republicans unanimous control of the state’s congressional delegation for the first time since 1923.

Term-limited Gov. Jim Justice, 72, is the clear favorite in both the GOP primary and general election to succeed Manchin. But the tea leaves in the battle for Justice’s current job are harder to read: Though Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has held a narrow polling lead for months, he faces aggressive primary opposition from two scions of West Virginia Republican royalty. With just weeks to go and plenty of money still unspent, the big question is which Republican will emerge victorious in the May 14 governor primary and thus become the immediate favorite to win November’s general

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