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McKinley, Mooney face off for first time in radio discussion

Reps. David McKinley (left) and Alex Mooney, candidates in the 2nd District Republican primary, participated in their first face-to-face event during a segment on WV MetroNews Talkline with host Hoppy Kercheval Thursday. (Photo courtesy of WV MetroNews)

CHARLESTON — Reps. David McKinley and Alex Mooney held their first and likely only face-to-face event Thursday, discussing their differences and trading barbs as they try to convince voters to keep one of them in Congress in next week’s Republican primary for the new 2nd Congressional District.

McKinley and Mooney appeared in person together Thursday morning during the second hour of WV MetroNews Talkline with host Hoppy Kercheval. The event was labeled an informal joint appearance instead of a traditional debate, with Kercheval asking each candidate individual questions and neither candidate responding directly to each other.

Questions focused on many of the issues both candidates have used to attack each other since last November after McKinley and Mooney announced their intentions to seek election to the new northern 2nd District, created after the U.S. Census numbers caused West Virginia to drop from three to two congressional districts. The Legislature combined much of McKinley’s 1st District and Mooney’s 2nd District into the new 2nd District last October, forcing both incumbents into a party primary.

Kercheval asked both McKinley and Mooney about their votes for the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in November. McKinley was one of 13 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives who voted in favor of the bill, while the bill enjoyed bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate, including by Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and Republican U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. The state is expected to receive between $6 billion and 8 billion from the bill for infrastructure improvements.

“This is not just 13 Republicans supporting this; this was a bipartisan effort over in the Senate,” McKinley said. “Are you going to turn your back on sewer and waterline and roads and bridges and broadband coverage for West Virginia?”

Mooney has attacked McKinley for his vote on the infrastructure bill, claiming the bill includes social spending and is contributing to rising inflation. Mooney and 3rd District Congresswoman Carol Miller, R-W.Va., voted against the bill supported by President Joe Biden.

“There was a lot of nonsense in that bill,” Mooney said. “You had a lot of other things in there, but probably the biggest reason to vote against it was $250 billion of more debt to this country. This was a $1.2 trillion Biden spending plan — I call it non-infrastructure — of which $250 billion was debt to America. That’s reason enough to vote against that.”

The issue of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol Building by supporters of former president Donald Trump to stop the certification of the 2020 election for Biden came up. McKinley was one of 35 Republicans in the House who supported a bill creating a bipartisan committee to investigate the attack, a bill that Mooney did not support and the bill failed.

Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., formed a select committee to investigate Jan. 6, which both McKinley and Mooney opposed. Kercheval asked both candidates if they thought Jan. 6 was a domestic terror attack.

“No, but I think that’s what we were hoping this commission would find out,” McKinley said. “We’ve had a commission when (John F. Kennedy) was shot; the Warren commission was put together. We had a commission that we put together after 9/11 to understand what took place. I wanted to get to the bottom of it.”

“I think it’s a witch hunt. I could not disagree more with (McKinley’s) vote on that issue,” Mooney said. “We have existing committees that could do these type of things already. We don’t need a separate committee. I do not think it was a domestic terrorist attack … I think that’s insulting. It was a protest; that’s what it was. A few people went in, and the law should be implemented for those who broke it, but we don’t need a whole witch hunt commission over this.”

McKinley and Mooney weighed in on the abortion issue after a leaked draft decision from the U.S. Supreme Court revealed that justices could be ready to strike down the controversial Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey decisions that allowed access to abortion.

Mooney has introduced federal legislation to state that life begins at conception, while McKinley believes abortion restrictions should be left to states to decide. Both candidates are endorsed by West Virginians for Life.

“Human life begins at conception. That’s just a biological fact,” Mooney said. “I know it’s not convenient for the left, but it is a fact you’re a human being in the womb. We should protect all human life. My bill actually defines ‘person.'”

“I believe too that that life begins at conception,” McKinley said. “I want to be the voice of speaking up for the unborn child that has never had the opportunity to have representation … but it should go back to the states individually. I don’t think the federal government should make those determinations.”

The Office of Congressional Ethics has filed two investigative reports on Mooney with the House Ethics Committee dealing with alleged misuse of campaign donations for personal use, using campaign and congressional staff for personal errands, and interfering with the OCE investigations by doctoring schedules. Mooney declined to go into specifics, but he did say he continues to cooperate with the investigations. A decision regarding the investigations by the House Ethics Committee is expected later this month.

“The reports are full of misrepresentations and unsupported allegations,” Mooney said. “I’m not going to get into every detail, but I’m working with the Ethics Committee. I’m cooperating with them to answer their questions about all these things.”

“Two congressmen that I know of that have been charged with the same thing that Alex Mooney’s been charged with have gone to federal prison,” McKinley said. “I don’t want West Virginia to be embarrassed by someone coming into West Virginia and causing this embarrassment to us.”

“I’ve not been charged with anything; it’s an ethics review,” Mooney responded. “That is completely false what he’s saying.”

Other topics included McKinley and Mooney’s stance on immigration. Both support action at the U.S./Mexico border to stem the flood of illegal immigrants. Mooney also support sending all undocumented workers back to their countries of origin, while McKinley supports creating a framework for undocumented workers already in the U.S. and their children to stay and pay taxes. Mooney accused McKinley of supporting blanket amnesty.

The primary election is Tuesday, May 10.

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

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