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Mooney beats McKinley after heated primary

Rep. Alex Mooney greets supporters in Harpers Ferry after winning the 2nd Congressional District Republican primary over Rep. David McKinley, according to unofficial results Tuesday. (Photo by Kevin Tester)

CHARLESTON — U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney survived one of the toughest races of his political career, beating back Rep. David McKinley in the new 2nd Congressional District Republican primary.

Mooney, now in his fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, beat McKinley, a six-term Congressman, 54.1 percent to 35.6 percent according to unofficial results transmitted by county clerks to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office Tuesday night. Not all precincts had reported in by press time, but Mooney was leading by nearly 15,000 votes.

Mooney and his supporters watched the election results from the Clarion Inn in Harpers Ferry. Addressing the crowd, Mooney said he was honored by the support he received from voters in the old 2nd Congressional District and new voters part of the new 2nd District.

“The voters of West Virginia spoke loud and clear tonight,” Mooney said according to a livestream of his speech from Fox News. “They rejected President Joe Biden and the far-left socialist agenda that is destroying our great nation … I want to thank all our volunteers and campaign team.”

McKinley monitored the results with friends and family from his home in Wheeling. He released a statement Tuesday night through a spokesperson.

“Serving the people of West Virginia has been the honor of my life. I’m proud that I have always stood up for what’s right for West Virginia — even when it hurt me politically,” McKinley. “The groundwork we have laid over the last 12 years has paved the way for a more prosperous and diverse West Virginia economy.”

“I do want to thank Congressman McKinley for his many years of service for our beloved great State of West Virginia,” Mooney said to supporters

Mooney went into the race with a clear fundraising lead, starting with $2.8 million in cash on hand compared to McKinley’s $502,774. Mooney also had an early endorsement from Trump last year, with Trump recently calling into a Mooney tele-rally and Mooney appearing with Trump over the weekend at a rally in Pennsylvania.

“I also want to thank President Donald Trump for his endorsement and support of my campaign,” Mooney said. “When Donald Trump puts his mind to something, you’d better watch out … He endorsed me three different times in press statements. Donald Trump loves West Virginia and West Virginia loves Donald Trump.”

McKinley was endorsed by Gov. Jim Justice and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Mooney criticized Manchin for getting involved in the race.

“How arrogant for Joe Manchin to think he can tell Republicans how to vote,” Mooney said. “He must see me as a threat, because he keeps trying to interfere in my campaigns. The real threat to Manchin and elitists like him are the conservative voters of West Virginia.”

TV ads from both candidates became increasingly negative as the campaign dragged on. Mooney attacked McKinley for being one of 13 Republicans in the House to support the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in November, with the state expected to see between $6 billion and $8 billion in infrastructure funding. Mooney join 3rd District Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., in voting against it.

McKinley was also attacked for his vote in favor of creating an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol Building by Trump supports to stop the certification of the 2020 election for President Joe Biden. Mooney voted against the bipartisan commission. Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., created a select committee on Jan. 6 that both McKinley and Mooney opposed.

Mooney’s former residency in Maryland prior to running and winning election to Congress in West Virginia in 2014 became campaign ad fodder for McKinley. Mooney is a former Maryland state senator and chairman of the Maryland Republican Party. Ads called Mooney a “carpetbagger” and “political prostitute.”

McKinley also attacked Mooney for his ethics investigations over the past year. The independent Office of Congressional Ethics filed two reports with the House Ethics Committee in 2021. A report released to the public in the fall found alleged campaign finance violations by Mooney, accusing him of using political donations for personal use.

OCE investigators, as revealed by Capitol Hill-based publication CQ Roll Call in March, were also seeking information last year regarding use of Mooney congressional and campaign staff for personal errands and alleged efforts to doctor calendar entries to obstruct investigators. The House Ethics Committee is expected to announce its course of action on or after Monday, May 23.

The race between Mooney and McKinley started in earnest after the West Virginia Legislature combined much of their current congressional districts into one northern district. West Virginia dropped from three to two congressional districts after the 2020 U.S. Census showed continued population loss.

McKinley had a geographical advantage, with all but one of the 20 counties in McKinley’s 1st District part of the new 2nd District. State lawmakers took nine out of 17 of the counties in Mooney’s current 2nd District away and placed them in the new southern 1st Congressional District. But Mooney had a population advantage with Berkeley, Jefferson, and Morgan counties in the Eastern Panhandle – the fastest growing region in West Virginia – remaining in the new district.

Mooney will now face Democratic opponent Barry Wendell in the November general election. Wendell defeated Angela Dwyer 56.7 percent to 43.3 percent as of press time.

Miller also won re-election Tuesday night in a five-way Republican primary, defeating her closest competitor, Scott Fuller, 66.4 percent to 10 percent, leading by more than 27,000 votes. She will face Democratic opponent Lacy Watson in November who was unopposed.

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