Joe Manchin’s retirement puts spotlight on West Virginia’s GOP primary fight for U.S. Senate

The Republicans’ victory in West Virginia, where they are expected to win by a landslide, could be the key to regaining the Senate majority.

Now the focus is on the GOP primary. Conservative Rep. Alex Mooney, who switched from Democrat to Republican in 2017, is seeking a boost to close a double-digit gap against establishment-backed Governor. Jim Justice, a former Democrat who became a Republican in 2017.

In an interview with The Washington Times, Mr. Mooney said that the establishment had been pushing the nonsense that Jim Justice would be a better candidate for general elections and you should therefore vote for a liberal Republican to beat Manchin. Now that Manchin has dropped out, this excuse is no longer valid.

Even if Mr. Mooney wins the primary elections, it will be a difficult task to beat Mr. Justice.

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The Governor is supported by Senate GOP Leaders and has beaten Mr. Mooney by more than thirty points in polls. The governor has a broader name recognition, and Donald Trump endorses him in a state which went to the former President in 2020 by more than 40 points.

Mooney has a history of pulling off upsets against Republican opponents who are more aligned with the establishment.

In the primary of 2022, he defeated fellow GOP Rep. David McKinley when the two men were pitted against each other after West Virginia lost its congressional seat. Mr. Trump had endorsed Mr. Mooney at that time.

Mooney stated that he “respects” and “supports” Mr. Trump, but disagrees on his support of Mr. Justice.

He said that “more than 30 Republican House of Delegates members have endorsed my candidacy over Jim Justice.” “The Republicans themselves know that he is a liberal.”

The campaign of Mr. Justice did not respond when asked to take part in this report.

Mr. Justice endorsed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 program of President Biden in 2021. He did not vote for Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential elections, when Mr. Justice voted as a Democrat. In 2017, he changed his mind and became a staunch supporter of Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader from Kentucky.

Steven Roberts is the treasurer of Jefferson County Republican Executive Committee located in the district of Mr. Mooney. He said, “I don’t know how much but there’s probably a shift as the conversation moves more towards conservative values and West Virginian values.” It’s not really about who can defeat Joe Manchin.

In November, Mr. Manchin announced that he would not seek reelection. He has also left the door wide open for a third party independent presidential bid.

Earlier this year, Mr. Justice said to The Times that Mr. Mooney’s claims that he wasn’t a conservative were “just garbage.”

Mr. Justice stated at the time, “I am not criticizing Alex Mooney. I’m simply telling you that no one in this state is familiar with Alex Mooney.”

Mooney promised to be a conservative counterweight to both parties if he were elected to the Senate.

He praised McConnell’s leadership in the Senate for the confirmation of conservative Supreme Court Justices and judges, but said that the party had fallen short on curbing spending and fighting Mr. Biden’s agenda.

He refused to confirm whether he would back Mr. McConnell in a second term as leader.

In a recent campaign advertisement, Mr. Mooney stated his feelings more directly about Republican leaders: “Leftists and fake Republicans caused this mess.”

The campaign arm of the Senate Republicans isn’t going to change its mind about supporting Mr. Justice. The National Republican Senatorial Committee will not be financially involved in the primaries, a sign of their confidence in Justice’s high polling.

The Times reported that “We’re looking for candidates not only who can win a primaries, but also a general election.” NRSC Chairman Steve Daines from Montana said. “Gov. Justice has done an excellent job in serving West Virginia and is in a strong position.

Mooney stated that it would be “outrageous” and “offensive” if NRSC “wasted donor dollars on a seat such as this,” when there are more than a half dozen blue seats for which Republicans have to fight.

Mooney, a member of the House Freedom Caucus is supported by conservative groups and legislators such as Sens. Rand Paul from Kentucky and Mike Lee from Utah.

The conservative Club for Growth pledged at least $10 Million to support Mr. Mooney. The group also airs anti-Trump advertisements across the U.S.

Mr. Mooney raised $2.3 millions this cycle, and had $1.6million cash in hand at the end of September. Mr. Justice had $1.2m in the bank and raised $1.5m. Mr. Justice has stated that he won’t self-fund the campaign.

The political action committee of Club for Growth ran a recent TV advertisement accusing Mr. Justice that he had “bankrolled” Democratic Candidates. This attack was deemed by the campaign manager for Governor to be an attempt “to do whatever they can to mislead West Virginians.”

Conservative Americans PAC’s pro-Justice ad praised Mr. Trump for his support of “big Jim Justice.” It also said that conservatives “cannot trust D.C. Insiders such as Maryland native Alex Mooney,” referring to criticisms that the former Maryland legislator had spent less time in Maryland since entering West Virginia politics.

The ad stated that Club for Growth was backing Maryland Mooney, the same D.C. big-money club who opposed President Trump.