By ALEX ISENSTADT, Politico
Rep. Alan Mollohan, a 14-term incumbent, has been defeated by state Sen. Mike Oliverio in West Virginiaâ€™s Democratic primary, according to the Associated Press.
With 97 percent of the vote in, Oliverio led Mollohan 56 percent to 44 percent.
Mollohanâ€™s decisive loss â€“ a stunning rebuke for a veteran appropriator who has held his seat for nearly three decades – comes just days after Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) lost his bid for renomination. Mollohan, the son of a congressman, had typically coasted in his re-election bids.
Oliverio had cast Mollohan as a creature of Washington and blasted the veteran incumbent over his ethics, repeatedly calling him â€œone of the most corrupt congressmen.â€
In coal-dependent West Virginia, Mollohan also found himself taking heat for the ambitious Democratic push for climate change legislation. In the final weeks leading up to the primary, Oliverio was endorsed by a handful of area newspapers that pointedly criticized Mollohan for not speaking out more strongly against the cap-and-trade bill and for not voting against the bill until the last minute.
Mollohan also found himself under fire from his former allies in the pro-life movement, who targeted the veteran congressman over his support for the health care reform bill. The Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group, launched radio ads and robo-calls in the district targeting Mollohan during the primary. West Virginians for Life pulled their longtime support for him and endorsed Oliverio.
â€œJust as Bart Stupak did, Congressman Mollohan now fully realizes that votes do have consequences. Mollohanâ€™s loss comes as a direct result of his vote for healthcare reform that included federal funding of abortion,â€ SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement. â€œThis should be just another sign to â€˜pro-lifeâ€™ Democrats that voted for the healthcare bill that they will face the same consequences as Stupak and Mollohan.â€
Mollohan fought back aggressively, spending nearly $700,000 and hitting the airwaves with a handful of ads slamming Oliverio as a Republican wolf in sheepâ€™s clothing. In his latest TV ad, Mollohanâ€™s campaign highlighted Oliverioâ€™s membership in the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council and noted that he had been embraced in some corners of the tea party movement.
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