With Outside Help, Mooney Wins GOP Nod for West Virginia House Seat

The former Maryland state legislator had the backing of numerous conservative outside groups.

West Virginia congressional candidate Alex Mooney
National Journal
Jack Fitzpatrick
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Jack Fitzpatrick
May 13, 2014, 5:37 p.m.

Former Mary­land state le­gis­lat­or Alex Mooney won a crowded Re­pub­lic­an primary race in West Vir­gin­ia’s 2nd Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict Tues­day night, in­stantly be­com­ing the fa­vor­ite to re­place GOP Rep. Shel­ley Moore Capito in the House and hand­ing the out­side groups that sup­por­ted him a big win in an open House seat.

Mooney had 33 per­cent of the vote with 59 per­cent of pre­cincts re­port­ing when the As­so­ci­ated Press called the race. Former George W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial Char­lotte Lane and phar­macist Ken Reed trailed with 20 per­cent of the vote each, and four oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans di­vided the re­mainder.

Mooney will face at­tor­ney Nick Ca­sey, who won the Demo­crat­ic nom­in­a­tion. The dis­trict fa­vors Re­pub­lic­ans (Mitt Rom­ney won there by a 22-point mar­gin in 2012), though Demo­crats hope the loc­al party brand re­mains strong enough to chal­lenge for the seat. Capito is run­ning for the Sen­ate, and she and Demo­crat­ic Sec­ret­ary of State Nat­alie Ten­nant eas­ily won their primar­ies Tues­day night to set up a rare wo­man-versus-wo­man gen­er­al-elec­tion match­up in the Moun­tain State.

There was no clear fa­vor­ite in the sev­en-can­did­ate Re­pub­lic­an primary race, but Mooney out­spent his op­pon­ents and at­trac­ted out­side sup­port from groups like the Tea Party Ex­press and Cit­izens United. He spent more than $400,000 on the primary race, and he be­nefited from an­oth­er $161,000 in out­side spend­ing sup­port­ing him, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for Re­spons­ive Polit­ics.

This was the first House primary for a can­did­ate en­dorsed by Mooney’s highest-pro­file back­er, the Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ives Fund. The anti­es­tab­lish­ment group, which soun­ded un­happy notes about Capito’s Sen­ate run but couldn’t mount an in­tra-party chal­lenge against her, spent over $60,000 on ra­dio ads back­ing Mooney and an­nounced in a vic­tory state­ment Tues­day night that it had raised $30,000 for him dur­ing the primary.

“It’s not enough to elec­ted Re­pub­lic­ans,” the SCF ad’s nar­rat­or said. “We need to elect con­ser­vat­ive Re­pub­lic­ans.” Mooney is one of six House Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates en­dorsed by SCF this year, and any vic­tor­ies would provide en­dorsees with the elect­or­al base to make a fu­ture run for high­er of­fice. When SCF made its first House en­dorse­ment, for Rep. Jim Briden­stine of Ok­lahoma, the group’s state­ment al­luded to the pos­sib­il­ity of a fu­ture bid for the Sen­ate.

Lane was the only oth­er can­did­ate to get out­side fin­an­cial sup­port. Wo­men Lead PAC, which sup­ports Re­pub­lic­an wo­men can­did­ates, spent slightly more than $25,000 back­ing her.

Op­pon­ents sought to counter Mooney’s spend­ing ad­vant­age by paint­ing him as a car­pet­bag­ger on the hunt for a con­gres­sion­al seat. He con­sidered run­ning for Mary­land’s 6th Dis­trict in 2012 but de­cided against it — and moved to friend­li­er, more con­ser­vat­ive pas­tures in West Vir­gin­ia. Mooney noted that many res­id­ents of West Vir­gin­ia’s east­ern pan­handle have moved there from Mary­land.

While Mooney will be favored against Ca­sey, the com­pet­it­ive and costly Re­pub­lic­an primary means the Demo­crat will start the gen­er­al elec­tion with more money to spend. Be­fore coast­ing through his primary, Ca­sey re­por­ted hav­ing more than $626,000 cash on hand, com­pared with Mooney’s $213,000.

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