ANALYSIS — Even without a competitive general election race, West Virginia will still be a factor in the fight for the House next year. Buoyed by midterm history and President Joe Biden’s slumping job rating, Republicans are increasingly confident in their ability to gain the five House seats they need for control. But they’re certain to lose a seat in West Virginia.
The Mountain State lost a seat during the most recent round of reapportionment due to population loss over the past decade, cutting its House delegation from three to two. The state has been sending only Republicans to Washington since 2015, so that loss will come from the GOP column. And Republicans will have to win a seat elsewhere to compensate.
With all three incumbents poised to run for two seats, West Virginia is home to the first known member-versus-member contest of the cycle. And the new map has some creative numbering, just to add to the chaos of a redistricting cycle.
1st District (Carol Miller, R)
For 30 years, southern West Virginia has been located in the 3rd District, and the region was represented for decades by Democrat Nick J. Rahall II. But as the state shifted Republican, so did southern West Virginia, and Rahall lost in 2014.
Miller has represented the area since 2019, but the southern seat will now be renumbered as the 1st District. The biggest change is the addition of Kanawha County, which includes the state capital of Charleston and is currently part of Rep. Alex X. Mooney’s 2nd District.
Miller represents nearly two-thirds of the newly drawn 1st District, according to calculations by Jacob Rubashkin of Inside Elections, and President Donald Trump would have carried the seat over Joe Biden by 41 points, 70 percent to 29 percent, in 2020. That means this seat will remain firmly in GOP hands. Initial rating: Solid Republican.
2nd District (David B. McKinley, R; Alex X. Mooney, R)
The race for the new 2nd District in the northern half of the state is more complicated, as Republican incumbents McKinley and Mooney are set to face off.
Geographically, the new district contains both the Northern Panhandle and Eastern Panhandle as well as Morgantown (Monongalia County), home to the University of West Virginia. And it remains very Republican in its voting performance. Trump would have defeated Biden by 37 points, 68 percent to 31 percent, according to Rubashkin.
McKinley has deep roots in the state and currently represents about twice as many residents of the newly drawn seat as Mooney. But Mooney had more campaign money at the end of September ($2.8 million to McKinley’s $628,000) and is more in line with Trump’s GOP. McKinley voted against objecting to Biden’s Electoral College victory, while Mooney supported the objections. But Mooney is also under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for allegedly using campaign funds for personal expenses.
This looks to be a great primary race that will symbolize the battle for control of the Republican Party. And the May 10 primary is also the only interesting race this district is likely to see this cycle. Initial rating: Solid Republican.