The Morgantown businessman came within 7,100 votes of winning a special election last fall, a result he said shows that voters are ready for a change from the longtime domination of Democrats.
“It was clear the people of West Virginia were ready to move beyond the bureaucracy and corruption that held our state back,” he said. “We came as close as we did because our message resonated.”
A self-made millionaire, Maloney said he can improve the economic progress the state has already made.
“We can make the business climate better. We can cut wasteful bureaucracy. We can eliminate wasteful regulation that holds back job growth,” he said, “and we can elect a new president.
“We can make West Virginia better, and that’s what it’s all about,” Maloney told a few dozen supporters who crammed into Ruby & Ketchy’s, a diner near his home that he and wife Sharon frequent. “We started something last year, and it’s time to finish it.”
After a breakfast of buckwheat pancakes, Maloney headed for the Secretary of State’s Office in Charleston to formally file his paperwork.
Tomblin, longtime president of the state Senate, is currently finishing the unexpired term of fellow Democrat and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin. This fall’s election is for a full, four-year term.
A Tomblin spokesman didn’t immediately comment on the prospects of a general election rematch.
The only primary challenge Maloney faces so far is from fellow Morgantown Republican Ralph William Clark, who entered the race Jan. 17. Clark ran for governor last year but got less than 2 percent of the vote in the May primary.
Other candidates have until Saturday to file.
“The more West Virginians got to know Bill last year, the more they liked his plans to revitalize West Virginia,” said Phil Cox, executive director of the Republican Governors Association. His group tried last year to link Tomblin to President Barack Obama, considered unpopular in West Virginia.
Maloney also spent $2.45 million of his personal fortune to distinguish himself from six independent, third-party and write-in candidates on the ballot.
Maloney focused on the state’s high poverty ranking and touted his experience as an employer. He vowed to take West Virginia in a new direction by aggressively targeting its tax structure, regulatory policies and court system. He also campaigned on his contribution to the rescue plan that freed the 33 trapped Chilean miners in 2010, saying he provided drilling expertise.
Cox contends the more voters learned about Tomblin’s 40-year political career, “the less they liked him.”
Last fall, the governorship was the only race on the ballot, and voter turnout was less than 25 percent. This year, the race shares a full ballot of legislative and other statewide races, as well as federal House, Senate and presidential elections.
Maloney said he’s long strived to be part of his community, and running for governor is “the ultimate of what you can do to give back.”
He also talked about humble beginnings, living in two Morgantown trailer parks when he first started North American Drillers in the 1980s and then turning that beginning into “the American dream.”
“It’s something that with a lot of determination and hard work, you can do if you strive to do the right thing and work hard, you can get ahead,” he said. He called anyone who has a problem with that idea “misguided.”