Trump-backed Mooney projected winner in West Virginia GOP House primary, giving former president another win

Of the numerous primary races held Tuesday, two resonated beyond state politics: the Republican gubernatorial primary in Nebraska and the 2nd congressional district Republican primary in West Virginia.

In the rare matchup between two incumbent lawmakers in West Virginia, ABC News projected Rep. Alex Mooney as the winner.

Rep. David McKinley faced Mooney and three other challengers in the primary.

The McKinley-Mooney showdown was another test of former President Donald Trump’s endorsement power. Trump endorsed Mooney, who has echoed the former president’s false claims about the 2020 election. McKinley, however, had the support of Republican West Virginia Governor Jim Justice and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.

Manchin even released an ad denouncing Mooney and declaring his support for McKinley.

“Alex Mooney has proven that this is Alex Mooney. But West Virginians know that David McKinley is about us,” Manchin said in the announcement.

The impact of redistricting was also fully on display in the race.

West Virginia lost one of its three House seats, and while both existing districts lean heavily Republican, there is one less seat Republicans can retain, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight.

West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner told ABC News Live’s Diane Macedo on Monday that he didn’t think endorsements from Trump or Manchin were going to decide the race.

“He’s certainly very popular… I think people are still tuned in to what he has to say. But I really don’t think that’s the deciding factor in this election,” Warner said of the former president. “Endorsements are important, but I think people really vote with conscience.

As for Manchin’s endorsement, Warner wasn’t sure if he would have “much play in this particular race,” which is also evidence of one of President Joe Biden’s signature policies.

West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the country, and McKinley is one of 13 Republicans who voted for Biden’s infrastructure bill that is expected to funnel $6 billion into the state. Mooney voted against it and was endorsed by Trump when Biden signed the bill into law.

Greg Thomas, a Republican political consultant in the state who knows both candidates and once worked for McKinley, believed that Trump’s endorsement of Mooney could, in fact, be a turning point.

“Trump’s personality is not something we see a lot of here in West Virginia. But his problems, these are West Virginia conservative problems and they’ve been around before Trump came along,” he told ABC News.

McKinley has also been affected by Trump’s focus on his vote to establish an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill.

Unsubstantiated claims about the 2020 election overshadow the two contests, as both Herbster and Mooney have pushed the false claim that Trump stole the 2020 election from him. Herbster attended the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021, which preceded the attack on the United States Capitol. Mooney also supported a Texas-led lawsuit seeking to throw out election results in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin; and opposed certifying election results in Pennsylvania and Nevada.

After candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump won primaries in Ohio and Indiana, Nebraska’s Republican gubernatorial primary will once again test the power of Trump’s endorsement, this time in a race in which leaders established GOP states have endorsed another candidate.

Trump has also banked on the Nebraska Republican gubernatorial primary by endorsing wealthy businessman Charles Herbster, who has been accused of sexual assault by eight women, charges he has denied. He is involved in a legal battle with state senator Julie Slama, the only accuser identified by her name.

The former president held a rally in Nebraska last week in support of Herbster, but nearly all of Nebraska’s Republican establishment leaders, including Gov. Pete Ricketts, support businessman Jim Pillen in the primary.

A third contender, state Sen. Brett Lindstrom, gained ground in part because of his endorsement of the mayor of Omaha, Nebraska’s largest city.

Tuesday’s primary comes just over a week after a Supreme Court draft opinion was leaked that would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade on abortion. The impending decision has galvanized both abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion rights activists.

Warner told ABC News Live that the abortion issue could play a role in Nebraska and West Virginia.

“It can excite the [voter] base, but I think we’re going to have an exciting election either way,” Warner said.

ABC News Ben Siegel contributed to this report

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