Seventeen candidates competed for the nomination for governor Tuesday in a primary that was thrown wide open when an extramarital affair put an end to Democratic Gov. Bob Wise's (search) career.

On the Democratic side, West Virginia Secretary of State Joe Manchin (search) appeared to be the front-runner in the polls among the seven active candidates, including former state Sen. Lloyd Jackson (search) and lawyer Jim Lees.

An Associated Press-Ipsos poll last month showed three GOP candidates in the field of 10 in a virtual dead heat: Monty Warner, a retired Army colonel turned developer; Rob Capehart, a former state tax secretary; and Dan Moore, a former banker and auto dealer.

West Virginia is one of 11 states with gubernatorial races this year. Nationwide, Republicans have 28-22 state majority.

The governor's mansion has traded party hands four times in the past 20 years in West Virginia, where Democratics outnumber Republicans 2-to-1 among registered voters.

The Democrats were counting on a second Wise term until the 56-year-old former congressman and father of two admitted to infidelity nearly a year ago and announced he would not seek re-election. The announcement ended Wise's 24-year political career.

Among the Democrats seeking their party's nomination was Philip "Icky" Frye, the now ex-husband of the state economic development official with whom Wise reportedly had his affair.