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Justice supports McKinley in congressional primary

Gov. Jim Justice, left. and 1st District Congressman David McKinley, right, shake hands after a 2019 event in Doddridge County. Justice endorsed McKinley on Wednesday in the 2022 Republican primary for the new 2nd Congressional District. (Photo courtesy of the WV Governor’s Office)

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice is providing his endorsement and assistance to 1st District Congressman David McKinley in the May Republican primary fight with 2nd District Congressman Alex Mooney to represent the new northern 2nd District.

“Congressman McKinley works hard in the U.S. House of Representatives for the people of West Virginia, and has for his entire career,” Justice said. “I see him working in our communities, and he is a fighter for the people of West Virginia. I am proud to support and endorse him.”

Justice is headlining a fundraiser in Charleston for McKinley on March 23 at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center. According to a spokesperson for Justice, the governor provided the written endorsement in response to a inquiry from another media outlet.

“At the end of the day, West Virginia needs a Congressman that is in touch with West Virginians and who genuinely cares about what West Virginians care about,” Justice said.

“We are proud to have earned the support of Governor Jim Justice,” said Kevin Stephens, McKinley’s campaign manager, in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “Governor Justice is passionate about West Virginia and understands we need a representative in Washington who shares his passion and dedication to the people of this great state.”

McKinley and Mooney are facing off in the May 10 Republican primary to represent the new 2nd District, which combines parts of the current 1st and 2nd districts after West Virginia was required to drop from three congressional districts to two due to population loss between 2010 and 2020.

Mooney has spent the last several months hitting the airwaves with television ads attacking McKinley. McKinley supported a bill to create a bipartisan independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building. The independent commission bill failed in the U.S. Senate, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., created a House select committee made up of mostly Democratic members and two Republicans to investigate the attack.

Mooney also attacked McKinley for being one of 13 Republicans in the House to vote for the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The hard infrastructure bill, which includes more than $6 billion for projects for West Virginia, was supported by Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and Republican U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, but Mooney and 3rd District Congresswoman Carol Miller voted no.

Justice, a friend of former president Donald Trump who switched from Democrat to Republican in 2017 at Trump’s urging, said he did not agree with McKinley’s vote on the independent Jan. 6 commission. But Justice called McKinley’s vote for the hard infrastructure bill a brave vote.

“Frankly, I do not agree with his vote to authorize a January 6th investigative committee,” Justice said. “However, it did take a lot of courage for him to vote for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and I know without question that vote was done out of his love for the great people of West Virginia. The infrastructure dollars we will receive will positively impact the lives of all West Virginians in a major way.”

“David McKinley has a proven track record of delivering conservative results for West Virginia, not just rhetoric,” Stephens said. “We’re honored to have the Governor’s support and look forward to continue to fight together with him for West Virginia families and our values.”

Justice attacked Mooney for his previous life as a Maryland state senator and chairman of the Maryland Republican Party. Mooney moved to Charles Town and won election to the 2nd District — previously represented by Capito until she won election to the U.S. Senate — in 2014. Justice said he has dealt more one-on-one with McKinley than Mooney.

“In fact, (Mooney) has only met with me one time since I became governor, but I see and talk to David all the time,” Justice said. “I have serious concerns about (Mooney’s) ability to represent West Virginians well, after spending the majority of his time and life representing Maryland.”

Justice also brought up the recent investigation into Mooney by the House Ethics Committee after the Office of Congressional Ethics released a report over the summer accusing Mooney of alleged violations of House rules and campaign finance laws for alleged misuse of political donations for personal use.

The OCE accused Mooney of spending more than $40,000 improperly since 2017 while paying back the campaign more than $12,000 once the allegations came to light. OCE investigators found over the summer that Mooney used campaign donations for personal purchases, trips outside his district, food, his personal car, and more.

In a statement released Feb. 7, the majority and minority leadership of the House Ethics Committee announced that they would announce a course of action on the Mooney case either on or before May 23. Roll Call reported on Feb. 1 that Mooney opened a legal expense fund to pay the costs associated with the House Ethics Committee investigation.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Mooney touted his early endorsement in the race from former president Trump. He also pointed to McKinley’s own rebuke by the House Ethics Committee in 2016 for not having his name removed from the Wheeling-based engineering firm he founded in the 1980s.

“I’m honored to be endorsed by President Trump and am running as the true conservative in the race,” Mooney said. “While David McKinley is supporting Joe Biden’s ‘non-infrastructure’ bill, I have been fighting for West Virginia values. The Governor has his facts wrong, the only one in this race who has been found guilty by the ethics committee is David McKinley after six years of investigation.”

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com

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