Race sets off ‘feed­ing frenzy’ in West Vir­ginia

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

The 2018 Se­nate race in West Vir­ginia could test the the­ory that com­pe­ti­tion is good in politics.

Repub­li­cans are hop­ing that a hard-fought pri­mary con­test does not ham­per their chances of thwart­ing Sen. Joe Manchin III, a Demo­crat, from win­ning a sec­ond full term in the midterm elec­tions.

Democrats, mean­while, want the Repub­li­can fight be­tween Rep. Evan H. Jenk­ins and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Pa­trick Mor­risey to get even uglier. A blood­bath in the Repub­li­can pri­mary race, which also in­cludes Bo Co­p­ley, would in­crease Democrats’ chances of de­fend­ing Mr. Manchin’s Se­nate seat.

Don­ald Trump won the Moun­tain State in a land­slide in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion last year.

“It is a feed­ing frenzy that started quick and looks like it still has room to grow,” said Je­frey Pol­lock, a spokesman for the Manchin cam­paign. “It started off nasty, and I doubt it will get any friend­lier.”

But Con­rad Lu­cas, head of the West Vir­ginia Repub­li­can Party, said com­pe­ti­tion will only strengthen the party as it pre­pares for the midterm races.

“We are a state that has run rapidly to the right and be­come rapidly Repub­li­can, and we still have one lib­eral sen­a­tor, and he will be de­feated hand­ily by our nom­i­nee come next Novem­ber,” Mr. Con­rad said. “We were the most pro-Trump state, but to put that in con­text, Don­ald Trump re­ceived more sup­port than any other pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in his­tory. The clos­est sec­ond was Abe Lin­coln, who cre­ated the state.”

The Repub­li­can field in West Vir­ginia could get more crowded as busi­ness­man John Raese and Don Blanken­ship, a for­mer coal com­pany CEO, are giv­ing the race a look.

Repub­li­cans also are gear­ing up for a po­ten­tial hard-nosed matchup in In­di­ana, where Rep. Luke Messer and Rep. Todd Rokita are con­sid­er­ing bids against Demo­cratic Sen. Joe Don­nelly and have al­ready ex­changed jabs.

“Todd Rokita wants to run for the U.S. Se­nate, and it is clear that he will do and say al­most any­thing to ad­vance his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer,” Mr. Messer said in an email blast last Mon­day. “Ap­par­ently, truth or in­tegrity won’t get in the way.”

Mr. Rokita, mean­while, has ac­cused Mr. Messer of not liv­ing in the state. He also has said that his fundrais­ing prow­ess makes him the “only po­ten­tial can­di­date who can de­feat lib­eral Joe Don­nelly.”

Mr. Don­nelly and Mr. Manchin are among the five most vul­ner­a­ble sen­a­tors in the midterm races, ac­cord­ing to In­sider Elec­tions.

The race in West Vir­ginia heated up this month af­ter Mr. Mor­risey an­nounced he was run­ning against Mr. Jenk­ins and Mr. Co­p­ley, set­ting up the state’s first com­pet­i­tive Repub­li­can pri­mary in mod­ern his­tory.

The Jenk­ins cam­paign re­sponded by warn­ing that his ri­val was a “prof­i­teer — not a Moun­taineer” and high­lighted Mr. Mor­risey’s back­ground as a Wash­ing­ton lob­by­ist and a failed con­gres­sional can­di­date in New Jer­sey.

“Mor­risey spent two decades swim­ming in the D.C. swamp as a con­gres­sional staffer turned lob­by­ist, mak­ing mil­lions of dol­lars by trad­ing on in­flu­ence and shilling for big spe­cial in­ter­ests — and throw­ing con­ser­va­tive prin­ci­ples to the way­side,” said Andy Sere, a Jenk­ins cam­paign strate­gist.

“He’s re­tained that out-for-him­self men­tal­ity to this day, ig­nor­ing pleas from long­time GOP lead­ers to serve out his four-year term as at­tor­ney gen­eral in­stead of hand­ing his seat to an ap­pointed Demo­crat,” he said. “That’s how des­per­ate he is to get back to the D.C. swamp that made him rich.”

Mr. Mor­risey has cast him­self as the true con­ser­va­tive in the race.

“It’s very dif­fi­cult for Evan Jenk­ins to present him­self as a vi­able al­ter­na­tive to Sen. Joe Manchin when Jenk­ins sup­ported the same dis­as­trous poli­cies and can­di­dates as Sen. Manchin, in­clud­ing cap-and-trade, Oba­macare-style leg­is­la­tion and Hil­lary Clin­ton — not to men­tion Joe Manchin him­self,” said Nachama Solove­ichik, a Mor­risey spokes­woman.

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