Mooney ousts GOP colleague McKinley, who drew Trump’s wrath

Loss of one West Virginia seat led to member-vs.-member fight

Rep. Alex Mooney, seen here arriving at the Capitol on Nov. 4, 2021, defeated Rep. David McKinley in the Republican primary Tuesday in West Virginia's redrawn 2nd District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Alex Mooney, seen here arriving at the Capitol on Nov. 4, 2021, defeated Rep. David McKinley in the Republican primary Tuesday in West Virginia's redrawn 2nd District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted May 10, 2022 at 9:31pm, Updated at 9:45pm

Rep. Alex X. Mooney, boosted by support from former President Donald Trump, defeated Rep. David B. McKinley on Tuesday in the Republican primary in West Virginia's redrawn 2nd District. 

Mooney ran on the former president’s endorsement and exhaustively attacked McKinley‘s votes for a bipartisan infrastructure package and for creating a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack.

The strategy helped Mooney overcome potential baggage as a former Maryland official facing House ethics investigations. When The Associated Press called the race at 9:12 p.m. Eastern, Mooney had 51.8 percent of the vote to McKinley’s 38 percent in the five-candidate field. 

Mooney had led McKinley, 48 percent to 33 percent, in a poll of 350 likely Republican voters released Friday by West Virginia MetroNews, a website and talk radio and streaming network. The survey, taken online and by phone April 28 through May 4 by Research America, had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.2 percentage points.

Mooney is heavily favored in November in a state Trump won with 68 percent of the vote in 2020. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican.

Barry Lee Wendell of Morgantown, a retired substitute teacher and former Morgantown city councilman with 88 followers on Twitter and 100 on Facebook, was declared the winner of the Democratic nomination by the AP at 9:36 p.m. Eastern. He had 58 percent of the vote with an estimated 71 percent counted. Wendell said in a Youtube video that if elected he wants to “pass as much as possible” of President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan, and vote to forgive most outstanding student loans.

Mooney got Trump’s endorsement even though he supported the former president’s public position on bills less often than McKinley from 2017 through 2020. Data from CQ Vote Watch showed Mooney with an 86.4 percent “presidential unity” score, compared with 91.1 percent for McKinley.

The two incumbents were forced to face off after West Virginia lost a congressional seat in reapportionment after the 2020 census. Under the new lines, about 66 percent of voters came from McKinley’s old district, compared with 33 percent from Mooney’s old district.

The redrawn 2nd District runs from the northern panhandle, where McKinley lives in Wheeling, to Charles Town, where Mooney lives in the eastern panhandle. The district goes as far south as Randolph County and as far west as Wood County.

In the days leading up to the primary, Mooney participated with Trump in a “tele-rally” on the phone and a rally Friday in Greensburg, Pa., that also included Senate candidate Mehmet Oz and Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, and J.D. Vance, the Republican who won last week’s Senate primary in Ohio.

McKinley’s support for the bipartisan infrastructure law was a focal point in the race. The law will inject a great deal of funding into the state for roads, bridges, airports, expanded broadband and to reclaim abandoned mine lands, among other efforts. McKinley, a civil engineer, ran on infrastructure when he was elected to Congress in 2010. Even though representatives for Trump told him a vote for the bill would result in Trump endorsing his opponent, McKinley said he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to vote for it because it “is good for West Virginia.” The bill was also supported by the state’s two senators, Democrat Joe Manchin III and Republican Shelley Moore Capito.

On the November day the package was signed by President Joe Biden, Trump endorsed Mooney. 

Mooney, a former state senator from Maryland now serving his fourth term, aired ads saying McKinley “betrayed” West Virginia by voting for the infrastructure bill and the Jan. 6 commission, the latter of which was killed in the Senate.

In his ads, McKinley criticized Mooney on allegations of carpetbagging and ongoing ethics investigations.