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West Virginia U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney rides Trump endorsement to primary win

Mooney defeats fellow Republican incumbent David McKinley, who voted for bipartisan infrastructure bill and independent January 6th investigation

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

West VirginiaMORGANTOWN, West Virginia (CFP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney has won the hotly contested incumbent-vs-incumbent primary in West Virginia’s 2nd U.S. House District, riding Donald Trump’s coveted endorsement to an easy win over U.S. Rep. David McKinley in the state’s May 10 primary.

mooney full

U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-West Virginia

“When Donald Trump puts his mind to something, you better watch out,” Mooney told supporters in his victory speech, in which he said voters in northern West Virginia “spoke loud and clear tonight.”

Mooney also took a shot at Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who crossed party lines to endorse McKinley, hinting that he might run against him for the Senate when Manchin’s seat comes up in 2024.

“I’m 2-0 against him. Maybe I should make it 3-0,” Mooney said.

Mooney took 54% of the vote to 36% for McKinley, with the rest split among three other candidates. He will be heavily favored in November against Democrat Barry Wendell, a former city council member in Morgantown, who won his party’s primary.

One possible wild card in that race: Mooney is currently under investigation by the House Ethics Committee over allegations that he misused campaign funds, had office staff perform personal errands, and interfered in a previous ethics investigation. He has denied any wrongdoing.

McKinley and Mooney were forced to run against each other after West Virginia lost one of its three U.S. House seats after 2020 reapportionment. State legislators decided to slice the state into northern and southern districts, throwing both men into a primary for the same seat.

The 2nd District includes the northern and western panhandles and the northern third of the state, including the cities of Morgantown, Wheeling and Parkersburg.

McKinley has represented more of the district than Mooney in the previous House map, but Mooney ended up carrying all but three counties.

Trump endorsed Mooney over McKinley, who was one of just 35 Republicans to support an independent investigation into the January 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol and one of just 12 GOP members voting for Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill.

McKinley later voted against a House-led January 6th investigation in which Republican leaders aren’t participating.

McKinley said he supported the infrastructure measure because West Virginia needed money, but Mooney has labeled him as a RINO – Republican in Name Only – for going along with a plan championed by Biden and Democrats.

The state’s other incumbent U.S. House member, Republican Carol Miller, easily won her primary in the southern 1st District that includes Charleston and Huntington. She will face Democrat Lacy Watson, an instructor at Bluefield State College, in November.

Mountaineer State voters also decided state legislative primaries and other local races Tuesday; there are no statewide races or U.S. Senate seats up this year.

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Republican U.S. House incumbents David McKinley, Alex Mooney face off in West Virginia primary

Donald Trump backing Mooney after McKinley votes for independent January 6th investigation

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

West Virginia

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia (CFP) — Republicans in the northern half of West Virginia will go to the polls Tuesday to decide an incumbent-vs-incumbent U.S. House race that will test the potency of Donald Trump’s political brand in one of his strongest states.

mckinley and mooney

U.S. Reps. David McKinley and Alex Mooney, R-West Virginia

In the state’s 2nd U.S. House District, Republican U.S. Reps. David McKinley and Alex Mooney –- thrown into the same district after West Virginia lost a House seat in reapportionment –- will face off in what has become a contentious intra-party spat.

Mountaineer State voters will also decide state legislative primaries and other local races Tuesday; there are no statewide races or U.S. Senate seats up this year.

Trump has endorsed Mooney over McKinley, who was one of just 35 Republicans to support an independent investigation into the January 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol and one of just 12 GOP members voting for Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill.

McKinley later voted against a House-led January 6th investigation in which Republican leaders aren’t participating.

McKinley said he supported the infrastructure measure because West Virginia needed money, but Mooney has labeled him as a RINO – Republican in Name Only – for going along with a plan championed by Biden and Democrats.

The candidates’ West Virginia bona fides could also be a deciding factor: McKinley, 70, from Wheeling in the northern panhandle, touts that his family has been in the state for seven generations. Mooney, 50, from Charles Town in the eastern panhandle, is a former state senator in Maryland and Washington lobbyist who moved to the state prior to running for Congress in 2014.

Mooney is also currently under investigation by the House Ethics Committee over allegations that he misused campaign funds, had office staff perform personal errands, and interfered in a previous ethics investigation. He has denied any wrongdoing.

McKinley has been endorsed by both Republican Governor Jim Justice and Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, the only Democrat still holding a statewide or federal office.

During a virtual appearance at a pre-election rally, Trump, who carried West Virginia by 40 points in 2016 and 39 points in 2020, charged that McKinley “betrayed Republican voters in West Virginia” with his bipartisan votes and called Mooney a “warrior In every sense of the way.”

But McKinley touts that he supported Trump 92% of the time in Congress and has accused Mooney of misleading voters into thinking that he supported Biden’s larger social spending program, which he opposed, rather than the smaller spending bill focused on infrastructure.

McKinley and Mooney were forced to run against each other after West Virginia lost one of its three U.S. House seats after 2020 reapportionment. State legislators decided to slice the state into northern and southern districts, throwing both men into a primary for the same seat.

The 2nd District includes the northern and western panhandles and the northern third of the state, including the cities of Morgantown, Wheeling and Parkersburg. McKinley represents more of the district than Mooney in the previous House map.

The state’s other incumbent U.S. House member, Republican Carol Miller, is running in the southern 1st District that includes Charleston and Huntington. She faces four Republican opponents but is expected to easily win the primary and face Democrat Lacy Watson, an instructor at Bluefield State College.

Democrats in the 2nd District will choose between former Morgantown city councilman Barry Wendell and Angela Dwyer, a security operations manager and mother of seven from Falling Waters. The winner will face either McKinley or Mooney in November

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Hot or not, in or out: Our forecast of 2022’s most interesting Southern political races

Trump’s sway will be key metric in outcome of midterm elections across region

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

Decision 2022(CFP) — 2022 has dawned, and with it a mid-term election year in which most Southern states will decide who gets to be their governor and congressional races across the region will play a key role in deciding which party controls Congress.

Of the eight Southern states with open races for governor this year, seven will feature incumbents seeking re-election, with the only open race in Arkansas, where former Donald Trump spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders appears on her way to victory.

Nine U.S. Senate seats will be up, with open races in Alabama and North Carolina and Georgia Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock battling for a full term after winning a special election runoff in 2020.

Here is a look at some of the hottest races, and likely biggest political stories, of the upcoming year.

Reapportionment Primary-Palooza

The redrawing of new U.S. House maps after reapportionment has set up two Southern primary contests, one in each party, where incumbents will need to defeat a current colleague to stay in Congress.

In Georgia, Republican mapmakers have pitted Democratic U.S. Reps. Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux against each other in Atlanta’s suburbs. McBath’s existing district in the northwest suburbs became too Republican for her to survive; Bourdeaux’s in the northeast suburbs actually became more Democratic with the addition of areas that had been in McBath’s orbit.

The two women — who campaigned with each other in 2018 and 2020 and differ little politically — will face off in what is likely to be an expensive primary. McBath has a stronger national profile and fundraising operation, but the district now centers on Gwinnett County, which Bourdeaux currently represents.

One caveat is that voting rights groups are suing the block the new map, which, if successful, could provide a wrinkle ahead of the March filing deadline.

In West Virginia, the loss of one of the state’s three U.S. House seats sets up a primary contest between Republican U.S. Reps. David McKinley and Alex Mooney for a new district that includes the northern half of the state.

However, this race will have more of an ideological flavor than the primary in Georgia. Mooney, a former Washington lobbyist who moved to the state in 2014 from Maryland to run for Congress, is a member of the ultra-conservative, anti-establishment Freedom Caucus. McKinley, a seventh-generation West Virginian and former state party chair, is more aligned with the Republican Party’s establishment wing.

Expect to hear a great deal in this race about McKinley’s vote in favor of establishing a bipartisan commission to investigation the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, which Mooney opposed.

The Power of Trump

The former president has already been active in offering endorsements and pursuing revenge, particularly against Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for refusing to indulge his claims of widespread fraud in the state’s 2020 vote.

Trump recruited former U.S. Senator David Perdue to run against Kemp, setting off what is likely to be a bare-knuckled brawl in the Republican primary ahead of a stiff challenge from Democrat Stacey Abrams. He also endorsed U.S. Rep. Jody Hice’s bid to unseat Raffensperger.

And in one of the strangest early developments of the 2020 campaign, Trump also reportedly encouraged his former ambassador to Slovenia, Lindy Blanchard, to drop out of the U.S. Senate race to run instead against the very popular Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, in a fit of pique over cancellation of a July 4th Trump rally (a decision Ivey did not actually make.)

Trump has also waded into the attorney general’s race in Texas with an endorsement of incumbent Ken Paxton, who has drawn a gaggle of primary challengers (including Bush family scion George P. Bush and stalwart pro-Trump U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert) after a criminal indictment and FBI bribery investigation.

Taking down Ivey would seem a long shot at this point; Kemp is holding his own against Perdue in early polls; and Paxton race seems likely to be headed to an unpredictable runoff in March. So it remains to be seen whether the Trump endorsement machine will produce results in 2022.

Trump has also endorsed in three U.S. Senate races. In Georgia, his nod put Herschel Walker on a glide path to the Republican nomination, but his chosen candidates in Alabama (U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks) and North Carolina (U.S. Rep. Ted Budd) are facing tough primary battles against more establishment candidates.

Adding to the MAGA Squad

Trump’s election has led to the rise of a core group of MAGA-philes in the House – social media savvy, outspoken, and willing to pounce on fellow Republicans who display the slightest scrap of bipartisanship. Among this group are Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, Florida’s Matt Gaetz, the aforementioned Gohmert and Brooks, and North Carolina’s Madison Cawthorn.

In 2022, they are hoping to add to their numbers by offering endorsements and fundraising help to like-minded candidates across the South and around the country, which will put them in position to be power brokers if Republicans take control of the House (a prospect likely to give House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy heartburn.)

Some of these candidates are little known and will face tough climbs against incumbent Republicans. But it is worth noting that both Greene and Cawthorn followed this same playbook successfully in 2020, going from unknowns to the halls of Congress with lightning speed.

Southern Black Woman in the U.S. Senate?

No black woman has ever been elected to represent a Southern state in the Senate. This year, Democrats are poised to pick two black women as their Senate nominees – U.S. Rep. Val Demings in Florida and Cheri Beasley in North Carolina.

Demings, the former police chief of Orlando who served on the first House impeachment committee that investigated Trump, faces an uphill climb against Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, particularly with his strong core of support among Hispanic voters in South Florida. But with her national profile, she has been posting strong fundraising numbers that could make the race competitive.

Beasley, the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, may have better prospects in running for an open seat in a race where Republicans are slogging through a multi-candidate race in which Trump has intervened in favor of Budd.

A victory by either in November will make history.

Palmetto State “RINOs”

The most serious insult that can be hurled in Republican politics these days is to call someone a RINO – a Republican in Name Only.

Two incumbent U.S. House members in South Carolina have been branded with the RINO label by their critics – Nancy Mace in the Lowcountry and Tom Rice in the Pee Dee – and are each facing multiple challengers in their respective Republican primaries.

Mace was among the few Republican House members to offer criticism of Trump after the January 6th Capitol attack, although she did not vote to impeach him. Rice did, which got him censured by the state’s Republican Party, and he compounded his sin among the MAGA fervency by supporting the bipartisan commission to investigate the attacks.

As a result, Mace has four GOP challengers; Rice has 12. Trump has encouraged their challengers but has yet to announce a favorite. His blessing may be good enough to earn a runoff slot against the incumbent.

Thinking Outside The Box

After Warnock won a January special U.S. Senate election runoff in Georgia, he immediately become the Republicans’ primary 2022 target. Yet, no sitting U.S. House member ventured to take him on, nor did the three Republicans who ran against him in 2020.

Enter Herschel Walker, University of Georgia football hero and NFL standout. Though he carries significant personal baggage and has not a whiff of political experience, he does have the one accessory every Republican candidate wants in 2022 – Trump’s blessing.

Trump’s endorsement didn’t clear the primary field, but it did get Republican Senate leaders in Washgington behind Walker’s candidacy – taking a significant leap of faith in a race against a charismatic Democrat with Obama-level political skills.

Is this a gamble that will pay off or blow up? The answer may decide control of the Senate.

Beto O’Crist for Governor

The good people of Texas told Beto O’Rourke that they didn’t want him to be their senator in 2018, even after he spent $80 million trying to persuade them otherwise. The good people of Iowa and New Hampshire told him they didn’t want him to be their president in 2020, without nearly as much money going down the drain.

But not willing to take no and no for an answer, O’Rourke is back again, running this time for governor against incumbent Republican Greg Abbott. Only this time, he’s running in the gun-loving Lone Star State after telling a Democratic presidential debate audience that he was in favor of confiscating their assault weapons.

But lest you think Beto is the region’s most resolute embracer of questionable causes, he pales in comparison to Florida’s well-tanned political chameleon Charlie Crist, who is running for governor again this year after losing two statewide races in the past eight years and metamorphosing from a conservative Republican into an independent and then into a liberal Democrat.

Which begs the question: What part of “no” don’t you understand?

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