West Virginia’s Hot Seat: Mooney makes case to new voters in 2nd District primary
CHARLESTON — Since first being elected to the seat held by current U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito in 2014, 2nd District Rep. Alex Mooney has held a safe seat.
But with redistricting combining two districts into one, Mooney is making his case to a new set of voters.
Mooney, R-W.Va., faces 1st District Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., in the May 10 Republican primary for the new 2nd Congressional District which combines much of McKinley’s district with Mooney’s district.
The match-up is one of five congressional races where an incumbent faces another incumbent. Mooney wants Republican and primary voters to compare his record with McKinley’s and make the right choice.
“I’ve been in Congress representing West Virginia for eight years,” Mooney said. “Look at my voting record. Look at my actions as a congressman from West Virginia. Compare those actions to the other congressman from West Virginia, and make a choice based on that.”
Mooney, now in his fourth term in the House of Representatives, has enjoyed wide support and success in his races since taking office in 2015. But the race against McKinley is by far the toughest fight for Mooney.
“Every elected official has differences, even within the party,” Mooney said. “We’ve all tried to work together to defend coal for our state, but now we’re running against each other. We’re emphasizing the differences between us, and there are significant differences … I would just say overall, I’m clearly more conservative.”
The 2020 U.S. Census caused West Virginia to drop from three congressional districts to two. The West Virginia Legislature approved a new congressional redistricting map in October that split the state in half, with the new northern 2nd District and the new southern 1st District.
The new 2nd District includes both the Northern and Eastern panhandles. It includes eight counties in Mooney’s current district while keeping all but one of the 20 counties in McKinley’s 1st District. That means Mooney is having to campaign harder, introducing himself to new voters who have never had Mooney’s name on a ballot.
“It is hard,” Mooney said. “Many of these counties are very rural and the old-fashioned door-to-door is harder to do. I’ve always liked doing door-to-door. So, I’ve been going into the towns … I’m just trying to introduce myself to as many people as possible.”
Mooney, who moved to Charles Town in 2013 after being a state senator and state Republican Party chairman in Maryland, is often painted with the carpetbagger label. But Mooney is like many new West Virginians who came to the Eastern Panhandle either to work in the Washington, D.C., beltway or to seek lower taxes, a more affordable standard of living and a better place to raise a family. Mooney resides with his wife Grace and three children.
During his time on Capitol Hill, Mooney has positioned himself as the budget hawk of the West Virginia congressional delegation, often voting against spending bills that other members of the delegation would support.
Both Mooney and 3rd District Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., voted against the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act while McKinley joined Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito and voted for it. McKinley was one of 13 Republicans in the House of Representatives to support the bill. Mooney knows he gets attacked for his fiscal conservatism, but he thinks it is important to hold the line on spending.
“I made a decision years ago that one day when I’m in my seventies or eighties, and I’ve got my grandkid sitting on my lap and they look up to me and they say ‘Granddad, what happened to make our country bankrupt?’ I don’t want to be responsible for that,” Mooney said. “I know I’ll be attacked because some of these trillion-dollar spending bills I vote against there’s stuff in there I like, but it creates more debt.”
Mooney is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, co-led by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. The Freedom Caucus represents the most conservative block of lawmakers in the House. The conservative Club for Growth, where he received a 87 percent lifetime score for his conservative record compared to a 51% lifetime record for McKinley.
Mooney also received high scores for his votes by other conservative groups, including a 99 percent lifetime score from Americans for Prosperity and an 89.9 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union. McKinley’s lifetime scores from Americans for Prosperity and the American Conservative Union were 76 percent and 63 percent respectively.
McKinley is also affiliated with the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership and Tuesday Group. McKinley also scored 10th in the House for bipartisanship on the Lugar Center – McCourt School of Bipartisan Index, while Mooney scored 394. Mooney said that McKinley is more interested in working across the aisle with Democrats than winning.
“McKinley really, really wants to be bipartisan and work with Democrats and vote with Democrats,” Mooney said. “That’s not my interest, OK? My interest is to fight for conservatism.”
Former president Donald Trump endorsed Mooney over McKinley late last year, even going so far as to attack the 13 Republicans — including McKinley — who voted for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Mooney traveled to Trump’s Florida estate in Mar-a-lago to secure the endorsement, meeting with Trump and making his case.
“I think Mr. Trump — President Trump — wants someone like me who’s going to fight back against the Democrats, not vote with them as much as possible, which Mr. McKinley has done throughout his entire career,” Mooney said. “I think it’s very important that the voters know he endorsed me and also why.”
Most political experts believe Republicans will easily pick up enough seats in 2022 to take the majority. Mooney said one of his goals, should he win the primary and the general election, is to reinstate Congress’ power of the purse. He also supports putting in place a requirement for a balanced budget.
“We need to actually pass appropriations bills,” Mooney said. “We should pass them one at a time like the budget calls for and make sure the taxpayer dollars of the voters in this country are used in the way that they want.”
Going into 2023, Mooney believes Republican primary voters will see him as the best candidate to represent their concerns in Capitol Hill.
“There’s really a disconnect and, frankly, a lot of distrust of their government right now,” Mooney said. “I’m talking to the voters and doing the meet-and-greets and things like Republican clubs and going to Republican Lincoln Day dinners. They’re not sure if we are even aware of how upset they are about things … They think our own government has turned on us and is oppressing us. That’s why I’m running for office. I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t want to fight for these people.”
Steven Allen Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.