Former Maryland Republican Party Chairman Alex Mooney won the Republican nomination for West Virginia’s 2nd district Tuesday night, delivering the Tea Party a win.
Democrats believe Mooney’s victory gives them the best shot at picking up the seat, open thanks to Rep. Shelley Moore Capito’s (R-W.Va.) run for Senate.
Though she held the district for eight terms, it’s the least conservative of the state’s three districts and Democrats are enthusiastic about attorney Nick Casey, who easily won the party’s nomination Tuesday night.
Democrats believe the main attack Mooney’s opponents used against him in the primary — that he’s a political opportunist and carpetbagger, having moved to the district from Maryland to run after considering a run for former Rep. Roscoe Bartlett’s (R-Md.) seat last cycle — remains potent in the general.
And they see his conservative support, which helped him through the primary, as a liability in the general.
Lane was initially considered the frontrunner for the nomination, but a number of national conservative groups — including the Senate Conservatives Fund and Citizens United — backed Mooney and invested about $80,000 in ads boosting him in the final weeks of the race.
SCF executive director Matt Hoskins said the group spent $90,000 on the race and congratulated Mooney in a statement, pledging to help him win in November.
"Alex Mooney started out as the underdog, but won this race because he ran on conservative principles," Hoskins said. "He will fight for common sense West Virginia values in Congress."
Mooney had argued he was the true conservative in the race, touting his pro-gun, anti-abortion rights positions in his campaign ads.
The final advertising push from outside groups, along with Mooney’s more than 2-to-1 cash advantage over Lane, boosted his message in the final weeks and helped him overcome those carpetbagging attacks from his rivals.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee declared in a memo that their Democratic candidates are “poised to run winning races in every district in the state,” but West Virginia’s 2nd remains their best shot at a pickup this cycle.
In West Virginia’s 3rd district, they’ll be fighting hard to defend Rep. Nick Rahall, one of Democrats’ most vulnerable incumbents, who will face state Sen. Evan Jenkins in the general.
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ian Prior declared Rahall’s primary would be the “last election he ever wins,” but Rahall did handily defeat his challenger, taking 65 percent of the vote with about two-thirds of the precincts reporting.
In West Virginia’s 1st district, Democrats are fronting state Auditor Glen Gainer, but he has a slim shot at taking down sophomore Rep. David McKinley (R).
—This piece was updated at 11:00 p.m.