Whitt to face Capito in GOP primary

PARKERSBURG — A Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from West Virginia is questioning the impartiality of the state party officials.

Allen Whitt Tuesday announced he’s running for the Republican nomination in 2020 for the seat held by incumbent Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. He’s the president of the conservative Family Policy Council of West Virginia.

State Party Chairman Melody Potter Wednesday after Whitt’s announcement issued a statement about Capito’s re-election campaign, saying Capito is the leader of the party in West Virginia.

“She led the effort to elect our conservative Republican majorities in both the state House and congressional delegation. She has been our leader in Washington standing up for our conservative West Virginia values,” Potter said. “She has also been a strong supporter of President Donald Trump and his agenda to secure our border, grow our economy and put America first.”

The statement was inappropriate, Whitt said Wednesday. Rather than impartiality, it shows favoritism for a candidate in a primary, he said.

Showing favoritism in the primary, whether it be for the incumbent or a candidate, discourages a person from running, Whitt said. Different candidates bring different views for people to consider, he said.

Discouraging candidates weakens the party, otherwise, Whitt said.

The Whitt campaign released a statement following Potter’s that said the party tradition is to be impartial in primary contests.

“The fact that this statement comes so soon after my announcement not only shows a lack of impartiality from state party officials, but also a nervousness, an unease, about the weakness of Shelley Moore Capito as a candidate in the Republican primary,” Whitt said. “If Sen. Capito had the approval of a majority of West Virginia conservatives, she wouldn’t need a thumb on the scale from her allies in the state party leadership.”

Potter said her statement “didn’t mention him and touted Capito strengths in the party. Her endorsements are on the website. Individuals are free to endorse.

“Capito has earned their support,” Potter said. “The truth is an overwhelming number of Republicans including conservatives support her because of her record and leadership.”

Whitt, who was born in Alabama, was a high school state champion hurdler and competed in the decathlon for Auburn University where he earned a bachelor’s in communications. He was a missionary helping underprivileged children in New York City, a carpenter building churches for small congregations in rural America, a business owner, was a writer and spokesman for Billy Graham and then a special assistant to James Dobson at Focus on the Family Radio.

He has been president of the Family Policy Council for six years. The council supports pro-life issues, marriage as the union between a man and woman and the free exercise of religion.

Jess Mancini can be reached at jmancini@newsandsentinel.com