Alex Mooney emerged from a crowded Republican primary Tuesday night and will face Democrat Nick Casey in November’s general election for the right to represent West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District in Congress.
With nearly 86 percent of precincts reporting, Mooney had 35 percent of the vote for a comfortable lead over Berkeley Springs pharmacist Ken Reed, who had 22 percent, and former U.S. International Trade Commission representative Charlotte Lane, with 18 percent, in the seven-candidate field.
Mooney raised more than twice as much money as Reed, who gave his campaign more than $500,000 of his own money, and more than three times as much as Lane, who gave her campaign more than $150,000 of her own money, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Mooney, who moved to West Virginia from Maryland a little more than a year ago, said in prepared remarks that he would fight against the Affordable Care Act, the “war on coal” and to protect traditional values.
On the Democratic side, Casey defeated Kanawha Delegate Meshea Poore. He had 59 percent of the vote with 86 percent of precincts reporting.
Casey, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party, raised more than 17 times as much money as Poore. Casey thanked Poore for running a positive campaign and for her dedication to public service.
“It’s quite clear that we need to build roads, bridges, schools, water and sewer projects in this country and that we need a real energy policy that lets our state contribute to the national economy,” Casey said in an emailed statement.
The 2nd District seat is being vacated by Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat that will be vacated by the retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller.
Capito easily won her primary Tuesday, beating two other candidates. Capito had nearly 90 percent of the vote with 90 percent of precincts reporting.
She will face off in November against Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who won the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, also against two other candidates. Tennant had nearly 80 percent of the vote with 90 percent of precincts reporting.
On Tuesday evening, Tennant challenged Capito to five televised debates between now and the November election.
“I’ve always debated in my competitive races,” Capito said in response. “I’ve planned on debating. Sure, let’s debate.”
With $4.3 million on hand, Capito has about three times more money than Tennant, although most of that edge was accumulated before Tennant entered the race. The race is likely to attract heavy spending from national political parties and national political action committees.
On the phone Tuesday night, Capito said that her campaign would be about “my vision for fighting the president’s war on coal and war on West Virginia jobs.” She said she has a proven record of opposing and voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but said that’s probably not going to happen.
“I think if we repeal we need to replace, but right now the president is not going to sign that,” Capito said.
She mentioned the requirement that large businesses provide health care to employees who work more than 30 hours a week as a key part of the ACA that she would like to change.
“I plan on running a very positive campaign on the issues,” Capito said. “I’m getting attacked personally, right and left, and I think people are tired of that, and I don’t plan to campaign like that.”
Tennant said she saw the race as a choice between “Washington politics” and “West Virginia values.”
“There’s been documentation after documentation that shows she [Capito] has done the bidding of Wall Street when she has voted to allow CEOs of big banks to receive bonuses while the taxpayers were bailing them out,” Tennant said.
On the ACA, she said she was angry that West Virginia only had one insurance provider in its exchange, but spoke about her daughter having heart surgery when she was very young to praise the law’s ban on discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions.
“She was forever considered having a pre-existing condition,” Tennant said. “What parent takes something their child can’t have?”
In the southern 3rd District, Rep. Nick Rahall defeated challenger Richard Ojeda. Rahall had 66 percent of the vote with 87 percent of precincts reporting.
Rahall will face Republican state Sen. Evan Jenkins, who switched parties to run for Congress, in what could be the toughest re-election fight of his nearly four decades in Congress.
Rahall has about twice as much money as Jenkins, but the race has already attracted lots of national attention and hundreds of thousands of dollars of television ads from outside organizations.
In a phone interview Tuesday evening, Rahall spoke in terms indicative of how negative the race has already become, with both sides airing attack ads beginning almost a year in advance of the general election. He called Jenkins a “puppet” of outside groups who have been running attack ads in the district.
“How dare these out-of-state billionaires try to tell West Virginians who have elected me and known me for 38 years that their congressman is against coal,” Rahall said. “They want to do away with unions in this country, they want to do away with government, they want to do away with the Affordable Care Act. You think they’ve ever worried about health insurance? You think they’ve ever worked for working families?”
Jenkins responded with an emailed statement linking Rahall to billionaires of his own.
“After 38 years, West Virginians are ready to send a problem-solver to Washington who will put their interests first,” Jenkins wrote. “I look forward to debating Congressman Rahall on the many critical issues facing our state, including his votes for the Obamacare disaster, his advancement of the war on coal, the questions raised about his integrity by the dishonest and hypocritical campaign he and his anti-coal billionaire allies have run to date.”
Although he voted for it, Rahall’s vocal support for the Affordable Care Act is somewhat surprising, given the unpopularity in West Virginia of President Obama and his signature health-care law.
“I’ve never said it’s a perfect law — I’ve never seen a perfect law passed in my entire tenure in the Congress,” Rahall said.
He touted popular provisions of the law, such as allowing children to stay on their parents’ health insurance, and banning the denial of insurance based on pre-existing conditions.
“Do I want to throw the whole baby out with the bathwater? Heavens no, because there’s a lot of good in it,” Rahall said.
Rep. David McKinley, a Republican, is being challenged in the northern 1st Congressional District by state Auditor Glen Gainer. Neither McKinley nor Gainer had a primary challenger. McKinley, the favorite, has significantly more money to spend. He has about $1.4 million on hand, as compared to about $150,000 for Gainer, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Sen. Joe Manchin released a statement Tuesday evening congratulating and endorsing Casey, Tennant, Rahall and Gainer, the Democrats who will run for federal office.
Reach David Gutman at email@example.com or 304-348-5119.