CHARLESTON — Since first being elected to the seat held by current U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito in 2014, 2nd District Rep. Alex Mooney has held a secure seat.
But with the redistricting combining two constituencies into one, Mooney is making his point to a new set of voters.
Mooney, RW.Va., faces 1st District Rep. David McKinley, RW.Va., in the May 10 Republican primary for the new 2nd congressional district that combines much of the McKinley district with the district of Moony.
The match-up is one of five congressional races where an incumbent faces off against another incumbent. Mooney wants Republican and primary voters to compare his record with McKinley’s and make the right choice.
“I’ve been in Congress representing West Virginia for eight years,” Moony said. “Look at my voting record. Look at my actions as a congressman from West Virginia. Compare those actions to those of the other congressman from West Virginia and make a choice based on that.
Mooney, now in his fourth term in the House of Representatives, has enjoyed wide support and success in his runs since taking office in 2015. But the run against McKinley is by far the toughest fight for Moony.
“Each elected official has differences, even within the party” Moony said. “We have all tried to work together to defend coal for our state, but now we are racing against each other. We accentuate the differences between us, and there are significant differences… I would just say that overall, I am clearly more conservative.
The 2020 U.S. Census reduced West Virginia from three congressional districts to two. The West Virginia Legislature approved a new congressional redistricting map in October that split the state in two, with the new 2nd District North and the new 1st District South.
The new 2nd District includes both the northern and eastern panhandles. It includes eight counties in the current Mooney District while retaining all but one of the 20 counties in McKinley’s 1st District. This means Mooney must campaign harder, presenting himself to new voters who have never had Mooney’s name on a ballot.
“It’s difficult,” Moony said. “A lot of these counties are very rural and the old-fashioned door-to-door is harder to do. I’ve always loved going door-to-door. So, I went to the cities… I just try to introduce myself to as many people as possible.
Mooney, who moved to Charles Town in 2013 after serving as a state senator and state Republican chairman in Maryland, is often painted with the carpetbagger tag. But Mooney is like many new West Virginians who came to the Eastern Panhandle either to work in Washington, D.C., on the outskirts or to seek lower taxes, a more affordable standard of living, and a better place to raise a family. Mooney resides with his wife Grace and three children.
While on Capitol Hill, Mooney positioned himself as the budget hawk of the West Virginia congressional delegation, often voting against spending bills that other members of the delegation would support.
Mooney and 3rd District Rep. Carol Miller, RW.Va., voted against the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, while McKinley joined Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito and voted for. McKinley was one of 13 Republicans in the House of Representatives to support the bill. Mooney knows he’s being attacked for his fiscal conservatism, but he thinks it’s important to limit spending.
“I made a decision years ago that one day, when I’m seventy or eighty, and I have my grandson sitting on my lap and they look at me and they say” Grandpa, what happened to bankrupt our country?’ I don’t want to be responsible for that.” Moony said. “I know I’ll be attacked because some of these trillion dollar spending bills I’m voting against contain things I love, but it creates more debt.”
Mooney is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, co-led by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. The Freedom Caucus represents the most conservative bloc of lawmakers in the House. The Conservative Growth Club, where he received a lifetime score of 87% for his Conservative record, compared to a lifetime record of 51% for McKinley.
Mooney also received high scores for his votes by other conservative groups, including a 99% Lifetime Prosperity Score from Americans and an 89.9% Lifetime Score from the American Conservative Union. McKinley’s lifetime scores from Americans for Prosperity and the American Conservative Union were 76% and 63%, respectively.
McKinley is also affiliated with the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership and the Tuesday Group. McKinley also scored 10th in the House for bipartisanship at the Lugar Center–McCourt School of Bipartisan Index, while Mooney scored 394. Mooney said McKinley was more interested in working across the aisle with Democrats than to win.
“McKinley really, really wants to be bipartisan and work with Democrats and vote with Democrats,” Moony said. “It’s not my interest, okay? My interest is to fight for conservatism.
Former President Donald Trump endorsed Mooney over McKinley late last year, even going so far as to attack the 13 Republicans — including McKinley — who voted for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Mooney traveled to Trump’s Florida estate in Mar-a-lago to seek approval, meet with Trump and plead his case.
“I think Mr. Trump – President Trump – wants someone like me who is going to fight the Democrats, not vote with them as much as possible, which Mr. McKinley has done throughout his career,” Moony said. “I think it’s very important for voters to know that he endorsed me and also why.”
Most political pundits think Republicans will easily get enough seats in 2022 to secure a majority. Mooney said one of his goals, if he wins the primaries and the general election, is to restore purse power to Congress. It also supports the implementation of a balanced budget requirement.
“We really need to pass supply bills,” Moony said. “We should pass them one by one as the budget demands and ensure that the taxpayers’ money of the voters of this country is used as they wish.”
In 2023, Mooney thinks Republican primary voters will see him as the best candidate to represent their concerns on Capitol Hill.
“There really is a disconnect and, frankly, a lot of distrust of their government right now,” Moony said. “I talk to voters and I do meet and stuff like Republican clubs and I go to Lincoln Day Republican dinners. They don’t even know if we realize how upset they are… They think our own government has turned against us and is oppressing us. This is why I am running for election. I wouldn’t be a candidate if I didn’t want to fight for these people.