McKinley, who had the support of Gov. Jim Justice, responded by trying to frame the race as a battle between a seventh-generation West Virginian and Mooney, a former Maryland state senator who only moved to the state in 2013 ahead of his first congressional bid. McKinley also took the unusual step of running a commercial starring Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who cited his own opposition to Build Back Better to push back on Mooney’s charges that McKinley supported it. McKinley didn’t hesitate to go after the investigations into Mooney, and he even aired a spot late in the race that showed a digitally altered image of Mooney in a prison jumpsuit.
McKinley said weeks before the primary, “Maybe I’m just Don Quixote … But I believe in my heart that America wants us to work together.” However, he found out the hard way that he really was, in his words “chasing a windmill,” and that what GOP primary voters in West Virginia wanted instead was a full-throated Trump ally like Mooney, warts and all.
McKinley’s defeat also marked the end of a political career that started in 1980 when he was first elected to the state House and continued with his service as state party chair in the early 1990s. McKinley went on to run for governor in 1996 but took third in the GOP primary against eventual winner Cecil Underwood, who'd previously held the governorship all the way back in the 1950s.
McKinley, though, got the chance to return to elected office in 2010 when he sought to challenge Democratic Rep. Alan Mollohan, who had faced a number of ethical probes in recent years, and national Republicans quickly touted him as a strong contender. The primary turned into an ugly affair, with one candidate, Mac Warner, outright saying he wouldn’t support McKinley in a general election because he’d “gone way over the line in personal attacks and distortions of the truth.” McKinley ended up defeating Warner (who is now West Virginia’s secretary of state) 35-27, but that result was overshadowed by state Sen. Mike Oliverio’s decisive Democratic primary victory over Mollohan.
Oliverio, who had attacked the incumbent from the right in an area where conservative Democrats were still the dominant faction, proved to be a tough opponent for McKinley even as Republicans gained strength nationwide, especially with the popular Gov. Manchin leading Team Blue’s ticket in the special election for Senate. However, while McKinley released an internal poll just after Labor Day that showed him trailing 41-36, he powered ahead with ads tying Oliverio to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Republican ended up winning in a tight 50.4-49.6; that same night, Mooney somehow lost re-election to the Maryland Senate despite that year's colossal GOP wave.
McKinley initially appeared to be in for a tough 2012 rematch against Oliverio, but he caught a break when he decided not to run again. (Oliverio later switched to the GOP, and he won his own Republican primary Tuesday for a state Senate seat.) West Virginia’s continuing shift to the GOP helped McKinley avoid a serious Democratic challenger for the next decade, but his luck finally came to an end in Tuesday’s Republican contest.
● NE-Gov: University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen won a close primary Tuesday for the Republican nomination to succeed his top ally, termed-out Gov. Pete Ricketts. Pillen defeated Trump’s pick, self-funding businessman Charles Herbster, 33-30, with state Sen. Brett Lindstrom taking 26%. Pillen will be the favorite against Democratic state Sen. Carol Blood in this very red state.
Herbster, who attended the infamous Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol, led in the polls through March, and he used his personal wealth to outspend the rest of the field. Ricketts, meanwhile, financed a super PAC that ran commercials attacking Herbster as a “Missouri millionaire,” though it also aired ads arguing that Lindstrom was insufficiently conservative.
The race took a dark turn in mid-April when eight women, including Republican state Sen. Julie Slama, accused Herbster of sexual assault. Herbster responded by running a TV ad that took the remarkable tack of directly attacking Slama and claiming her allegations were part of a scheme orchestrated by Pillen and Ricketts. Trump himself very much stood by his man, saying at a rally, “He’s the most innocent human being.” In the end, though, enough Republican voters followed Ricketts’ lead to allow Pillen to score a primary win over his Trump-endorsed foe.
● NE-02: State Sen. Tony Vargas beat mental health counselor Alisha Shelton 69-31 to win the Democratic nomination to face Republican Rep. Don Bacon in an Omaha-based seat that Biden would have carried 52-46. Vargas, who is the son of immigrants from Peru, would be the first Latino to represent the Cornhusker State in Congress.
Bacon himself turned back an underfunded intra-party challenge from roofer Steve Kuehl 77-23. Kuehl attracted some attention during the final days of the race when Trump used a rally for gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster as an opportunity to bash the congressman and implore the audience to vote for “Steve, whoever the hell you are.” However, not many Republicans in this swing district were willing to fire their congressman to take a chance on “Steve, whoever the hell you are.”
● MO Redistricting: Missouri's Republican-run state House passed a new congressional map on Monday in the hopes of resolving its long-running feud with the state Senate before the legislature adjourns on Friday, but there's no telling whether the upper chamber will play ball.
For months, far-right hardliners in the Senate demanded a map that would elect seven Republicans and just one Democrat, while party leaders insisted on districts that would preserve the GOP's existing 6-2 advantage. The Senate's dissenters eventually caved and allowed a 6-2 map to advance in late March, but the House rejected that proposal, with one member accusing the Senate of making tweaks that "took care of some people, some senators down there, that needed it for their political benefit."
● NY Redistricting: A federal judge has ordered that New York's congressional primary be moved from June 28 to Aug. 23, concurring with a state court that recently shifted the primaries for both Congress and the state Senate to the latter date due to a court-ordered redraw of the relevant maps. The federal ruling was necessary because, a decade ago, the same court had required the state to hold primaries for the U.S. House and Senate on the fourth Tuesday in June—instead of in September—in order to comply with a federal law mandating that ballots be sent to overseas voters at least 45 days before an election.
● AL-Sen: A new survey from Republican pollster Cygnal conducted for the Alabama Daily News and Gray Television finds Katie Britt, the former president of the Business Council of Alabama, in first place in the May 24 GOP primary with 32%, while Rep. Mo Brooks takes 23 and businessman Mike Durant 21, with 16% undecided. The numbers are, just barely, good news for Brooks, who'd been in third—and therefore wouldn't make the runoff—in a string of polls dating back two months.
● NC-Sen: With just a week to go before the election, one more pollster finds Rep. Ted Budd swamping former Gov. Pat McCrory in North Carolina's GOP primary for Senate. This time it's the Republican firm co/efficient, which did not identify a client but says Budd enjoys a wide 48-20 advantage over McCrory. The memo also indicates that a previously unreleased poll from late February had McCrory up 29-18. McCrory had in fact led in every public survey taken through that month, but starting at the end of March, Budd overtook him and has never trailed since.
● GA-Gov: David Perdue once again waited until after his main rivals released their fundraising numbers to share his, and once again he trails both of them badly. From February through April, the former senator brought in just $1.7 million from donors and supplemented that with $500,000 in self-funding, leaving him with only $900,000 for the stretch run to the do-or-die May 24 GOP primary. His opponent for the Republican nomination, Gov. Brian Kemp, reported having $10.7 million in cash-on-hand last week, while Democrat Stacey Abrams said she had $8 million in her war chest. Recent polls have consistently shown Kemp beating Perdue and avoiding a runoff.
● KS-Gov, KS-AG: After failed campaigns for governor and Senate, former Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach is waging yet another comeback bid, this time for state attorney general. To that end, he's released a new poll from WPA Intelligence showing him with a 44-41 lead on attorney Chris Mann, the likely Democratic nominee. The survey also finds the man Kobach is hoping to succeed, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, edging out Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly 47-43 in the contest for governor. WPA's offering is the first public poll of the attorney general's race and the first set of numbers for the governor's race since September.
● NM-Gov: A new SurveyUSA poll for KOB-TV in Albuquerque finds former TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti with a wide lead in the GOP primary to take on Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Ronchetti (who worked for a different station, KRQE) takes 44% of the vote, with Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block at 12%, retired Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Greg Zanetti at 10%, and state Rep. Rebecca Dow at 9%. Another 23% of voters are undecided. The only other survey of the race, a Ronchetti internal from early February, similarly gave him a huge 60-9 advantage over Dow.
● NV-Gov: NBC reports that A Stronger NV, a group funded by the DGA, has spent $500,000 on ads bashing Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo ahead of the June 14 Republican primary and has another $111,000 booked through the next month. One spot portrays Lombardo as someone "more worried about his public image than public safety," arguing that crime rose because of his decisions. An unnamed party insider explained the strategy by saying, "If he doesn't make it through the primary, then we've knocked out what is seen as the front-runner."
● NY-Gov: Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi has publicized an internal from HarrisX that shows him trailing Gov. Kathy Hochul 46-20 in next month's Democratic primary, with New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams at 12. Whenever a campaign releases numbers that, on their face, look this bad, it's a safe bet they're arguing they're on an upward trajectory, and that's indeed the case here: A previously unreleased Suozzi poll from February had Hochul leading Williams 55-12, with Suozzi taking just 9%.
● FL-04: Former state Sen. Tony Hill on Tuesday kicked off a campaign for Florida's 4th Congressional District, a red-leaning open seat in the Jacksonville area that would have voted 53-46 for Donald Trump. Hill, an Army veteran, is the most notable Democrat to enter the race so far, though businesswoman LaShonda Holloway, who unsuccessfully ran in the primary against Rep. Al Lawson in the old 5th District in 2016 and 2020, is also running, as are multiple Republicans.
● ID-02: Attorney Bryan Smith’s latest ad for next week’s GOP primary once again slams incumbent Mike Simpson for being too liberal, but this time, his narrator cites a 1991 article to insist that “Simpson says he is pro-choice on abortion.” Simpson, Nathan Gonzales notes, actually sports a 100% rating with two prominent anti-abortion groups.
● MD-04: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has endorsed former Rep. Donna Edwards as she makes a comeback bid in Maryland's open 4th Congressional District, which she previously held from 2008 to 2016. Pelosi is not only the most powerful Democrat in the House, she's also one of the state's most famous daughters: She was born in Baltimore and her father, Thomas D'Alesandro, represented the city in Congress and served as its mayor in the 1940s and '50s.
● NY-04: Jewish Insider's Marc Rod reports that Republicans in Nassau County have united behind Hempstead Town Councilman Anthony D'Esposito in his campaign for the open 4th Congressional District, noting that businessman Bill Staniford dropped out of the race at some point after the Nassau GOP endorsed D'Esposito at the end of March. Democrats, meanwhile, have a multi-way primary, though everything remains up in the air as a state court redraws New York's congressional map.
● NY-19: Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan has filed a notice with the state Board of Elections asking that he be allowed to replace Rep. Antonio Delgado on this year's ballot, since Delgado will soon be elevated to fill the vacant post of lieutenant governor. That would allow a special committee designated by Delgado's campaign to swap Ryan in instead, much as Delgado has already been substituted for former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin in next month's primary.
The Times Herald-Record's Chris McKenna says that Ryan's filing was made with Delgado's assent, though Ryan has yet to say whether he'll actually run. If he does go for it, this maneuver might obviate the need to for him to gather and submit petitions of his own. However, with a new court-drawn map on the way, all congressional campaigns in New York are likely to have to collect signatures a second time.
● NY-23: Republican Rep. Tom Reed, who announced his retirement more than a year ago in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations, said on Tuesday that he would resign his seat, effective that day. According to Punchbowl News' Jake Sherman, he will take a position with Prime Policy Group, a lobbying firm.
Reed's early departure will also set off a special election for the 23rd District, a conservative seat in Upstate New York that Donald Trump carried 55-43. Reed himself first won office in a 2010 special election that was prompted when Democratic Rep. Eric Massa resigned—also for alleged sexual misconduct. At the time, News 4 Buffalo reporter Nick Veronica reminds us, Reed wanted Massa to pay for the costs of holding that election: "He caused the need for a special election, he should pay for it," said Reed.
● TX-28: Educator Tannya Benavides, whose candidacy played a key role in forcing a Democratic primary runoff in Texas' 28th Congressional District, endorsed attorney Jessica Cisneros on Tuesday. Benavides took just 4.7% in the first round in May, but her presence ensured no candidate would forestall a runoff by winning a majority, as Rep. Henry Cuellar won 48.7% of the vote and Cisneros earned 46.6%.
● WY-AL: Donald Trump Jr. stars in a commercial for a group called Wyoming Values PAC supporting attorney Harriet Hageman’s campaign against incumbent Liz Cheney in the August Republican primary. The ad (which we’re watching so you don’t have to) opens with the younger Trump insisting, “For far too long, Liz Cheney has bowed to the Democrat [sic] elites like Nancy Pelosi. That’s why my father and I endorse Harriet Hageman for Congress.” Fox puts the size of the buy at $500,000.
Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.
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