Primary election: Trump-backed Rep. Alex Mooney to be West Virginia GOP primary, CNN projects

Mooney, a former Maryland state senator, had faced six terms from Rep. David McKinley after Mountain State lost a district in the post-census redistribution process.

The contest marked only the latest phase in the Republican Party’s fight for dominance, which is also being played out in Nebraska’s gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, where Trump backed a candidate facing allegations of sexual misconduct.
Trump’s influence is felt throughout the May GOP primaries as candidates clamor for his support, especially after his pick was won in the Ohio Senate race last week. The candidates he backed in major contests on Tuesday have stood by him throughout his baseless campaign to raise doubts about the 2020 presidential election.
West Virginia, a state Trump has twice won by a landslide, has tested the strength of his support. Mooney had won Trump’s endorsement in part because he opposed Pennsylvania’s vote count as Congress certified Joe Biden as a 2020 winner.

Speaking on Tuesday night, Mooney touted the importance of the former president’s endorsement and said he might have to interrupt his victory speech at any time to take a call from Trump.

“Donald Trump loves West Virginia and West Virginia loves Donald Trump,” Mooney said. He nodded to Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s support for McKinley, which had included an ad the senator cut attacking Mooney. “We won anyway,” Mooney said.

Mooney teased a potential U.S. Senate bid against Manchin, who faces re-election in 2024. “This is the second time Joe Manchin has done a TV commercial attacking me. I’m 2 for 0 against him. -and -0,” he said to cheers.

McKinley had voted to certify Biden’s victory and backed the formation of an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising — an effort that was ultimately doped in the Senate but earned Trump’s ire nonetheless. He also backed the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which Trump has spoken out against.

Mooney, who was first elected to the House in 2014, had attacked McKinley as ‘a liberal’ for backing this bipartisan legislation, but there was no subtlety in his ads as he touted the endorsement of the former president.

One billed as a “MAGA alert” accused McKinley of supporting “(House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi’s anti-Trump witch hunt on January 6.” And a district-wide radio ad in the last few days featured Trump calling Mooney a “warrior.”

Mooney described his victory on Tuesday as a victory against Pelosi and government officials who he said had gone beyond mask and Covid-19 protocols.

Besides Manchin, who had praised McKinley for standing up to “reckless spending” that could harm his state’s residents, the congressman had the backing of Republican Gov. Jim Justice, a former Democrat who transferred the registration of his left for the GOP in 2017.

McKinley had attacked Mooney as a newcomer to the state who failed to grasp the depth of his concerns, drawing attention to the fact that Mooney had moved to the state over the past decade from Maryland, where he had chaired the state GOP.

Manchin alluded to this rug attack in the ad, saying Mooney and his “out-of-state supporters” were spreading the “outright lie” that McKinley supported Biden’s Build Back Better plan, that Manchin had killed, citing concerns about inflation and spending.

“Alex Mooney has proven he’s all about Alex Mooney. But the people of West Virginia know that David McKinley is all about us,” Manchin said in the ad.

Nebraska Governor’s Race

In Nebraska, Trump endorsed Charles Herbster, a businessman, farmer and rancher who is in a close three-way race against hog farmer and University of Nebraska board member Jim Pillen, and State Senator Brett Lindstrom.

As Trump won the state with 58% of the vote to Biden’s 39% in 2020, Republican Governor Pete Ricketts endorsed Pillen as the candidate who should succeed him and actively campaigned against Herbster, whom he described as n not being qualified for the position. . Recent in-state talks suggest that the popular governor’s support may carry as much, if not more, weight to many GOP voters in the state as Trump’s endorsement.
Trump came to Nebraska to defend a candidate facing sexual misconduct allegations, but voters aren't so sure either of those things will matter on Tuesday
Herbster has faced fallout from a mid-April report in the Nebraska Examiner detailing accounts of seven women who said they were groped by him at political events or beauty pageants, and another woman who accused of forcibly kissing her. The examiner said all eight accounts were corroborated either by witnesses or by people who spoke to the women about what happened immediately afterwards.
Herbster dismissed the allegations in an interview with CNN as “politically timed libel” and said they were “100% false”. Adopting the aggressive tactics Trump championed during his own controversies, Herbster sued his first named accuser, Republican Senator Julie Slama, who Herbster said sexually assaulted her by pulling up her skirt and touching her without consent at a 2019 GOP dinner party. In the lawsuit, he alleged that his statements had “seriously damaged his reputation” and she filed a countersuit.

As part of his defense, Herbster claimed his opponents were using the same playbook they used against Trump in the 2016 campaign and then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. Both men were charged with sexual assault – allegations they denied.

Trump defended Herbster at a rally in Nebraska earlier this month, saying he was a “good man” who had “been badly maligned.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

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