West Virginia's first constitution was ratified in 1862. The present constitution dates from 1872. The executive branch is headed by a governor elected for a four-year term. The state's legislature has a senate with 34 members and a house of delegates with 100 members. The state sends two senators and three representatives to the U.S. Congress and has five electoral votes. Democrats have generally dominated West Virginia politics since the Great Depression, but in recent years Republican candidates have been more successful in the state. Gaston Caperton, elected governor in 1988 and reelected in 1992, was succeeded by Republican Cecil H. Underwood, elected in 1996, but Underwood lost to Democrat Bob Wise in 2000. In 2004, Democrat Joe Manchin was elected to the office; he was reelected in 2008. In 2011 Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat who became acting governor after Manchin was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, was elected governor; he was reelected in 2012.
The state's leading institution of higher learning is West Virginia Univ., which has its main campus at Morgantown. Other schools include the Univ. of Charleston and West Virginia Wesleyan College, at Buckhannon. West Virginia also has an extensive state college system.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.