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Punches Traded In U.S. House Race

If anyone wondered whether 1st District Congressman David McKinley would be up for a challenge for the new 2nd Congressional District, he left no doubt that he would punch back at least as hard.

The McKinley campaign has a TV ad ready to air that attacks 2nd District Congressman Alex Mooney for his House Ethics Committee investigation into his spending of campaign donations for himself and his family. It doesn’t appear to be on the airwaves the last I looked, but it can be found on YouTube.

This is in response to Mooney’s TV ads attacking McKinley for being one of 13 House Republicans who voted for the $1.2 trillion hard infrastructure bill. You know, the one where West Virginia is slated to receive more than $8 billion over the next 5-10 years to fix our crumbling roads and bridges, expand water and sewer access to parts of the state that still don’t have it, and broadband infrastructure.

While McKinley’s ad focuses on the campaign finance issues, it also takes a swipe at Mooney for crossing state lines to run for Congress, calling him “Maryland Senator Alex Mooney.”

I don’t think it’s much of a secret that Mooney hailed from Maryland before setting up shop in Charles Town in 2014 to replace Shelley Moore Capito in the 2nd District. Mooney served as a state senator for Washington and Frederick counties in the Maryland statehouse from 1999 to 2011. He also served as chairman of the Maryland Republican Party.

Mooney thought about a run for Congress in Maryland in 2012, going so far as to create an exploratory committee, but decided against it. Instead, he hopped the border to West Virginia and won election to Congress in 2014.

Now in his fourth term in Congress, Mooney’s office still has a Maryland flavor. Mooney’s congressional chief of staff Michael Hough, is a Maryland state senator for Frederick and Carroll counties. In fact, he is also seeking a seat as a Frederick County executive, the equivalent of a county commissioner in West Virginia.

Mooney has been whacked with the Maryland slam for probably all his elections in West Virginia. The attack hasn’t been particularly successful, especially in the Eastern Panhandle. Many people, particularly in Berkeley and Jefferson counties, are likely from somewhere else. Many work in the D.C. metro area or just across the border in Virginia and Maryland, but they commute from West Virginia.

My friend, Daily Beast senior columnist Matt Lewis, is one such person. His family resides in Jefferson County, but the work he does and his wife does takes them often to the nation’s capital. Is he a carpetbagger? I would say no.

The one thing Mooney can’t count on, however, is whether the carpetbagger label will slide off again. Mooney has the growing Eastern Panhandle that has been his strength in elections, but McKinley has the Morgantown area, which is the second fastest growing region of the state. McKinley will also likely have support from union members who are socially conservative, but who will likely see the hard infrastructure bill as a positive. Unions also tend to dislike out-of-state workers.

Speaking of Mooney’s prior career in the Maryland statehouse, a document is being circulated detailing some of Mooney’s public policy positions.

According to the document (which I double-checked via the Maryland General Assembly’s great website), Mooney introduced a bill in 2002 calling for a moratorium to block construction of a coal-fired power plant until Maryland complied with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ambient air quality standards. That bill appears to have gone nowhere.

Another vote in 2003 put Mooney in favor of creating low-emission vehicle standards similar to regulations in California, another bill that went nowhere. In 2004, Mooney supported an amendment to a House bill that extended an environmental surcharge on specified electrical energy generated in the state until 2010. That one passed.

Heck, Mooney even offered a plan in 2005 to renew a $1,500 tax credit for electric hybrid vehicles. He was ahead of his time, even before the various electric vehicle tax breaks there were in the version of President Biden’s Build Back Better bill that the House voted for in November (Both Mooney and McKinley voted no on that).

Democratic candidates in West Virginia with similar public policy ideas usually don’t do very well against Republican candidates. I’d imagine Mooney would prefer this document not be in circulation.

In closing, I wanted to express condolences to the family of Sue Cline, the former Republican Wyoming County state senator who passed away last week. She was 75.

I didn’t know Cline well. I was a communications specialist for the state Senate when she was appointed in 2016. Cline was a very quiet person who was not inclined to rise and make dramatic floor speeches or question witnesses during committee meetings. She preferred to listen and let her vote speak for her.

She was always very polite, quick with a greeting and smile. She certainly broke ground in Wyoming County, a traditionally Democratic-voting county. She was able to win election later in 2016 and served one four-year term. She lost the 2020 Republican primary to David “Bugs” Stover, who now holds her seat.

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