CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney didn't wait long to announce a run for Senate in 2024.
Just a week after breezing to reelection for a fifth term in Congress, the Republican backed by former President Donald Trump said Tuesday he is entering the race for the seat held by the only Democrat left standing in statewide office in West Virginia: U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin.
“I think I’ll defeat him,” Mooney said of Manchin in an interview with The Associated Press shortly after declaring his candidacy.
The announcement wasn't a surprise. Mooney has for months been taking shots at Manchin, whose profile has been raised nationally by his role as a swing vote on several major spending packages in the divided U.S. Senate. Manchin has not yet officially announced whether he’ll run for reelection in 2024.
“Obviously, he’s been around for a long time, met a lot of people, has a lot of money,” Mooney said, noting that announcing his campaign early will give him more time to fundraise. “I just want to make my intentions known to anybody, including Joe Manchin himself.”
Mooney openly expressed frustration after Manchin endorsed outgoing Republican Rep. David McKinley in the state’s May primary. The two GOP congressmen were pitted against each other after population losses cost West Virginia a U.S. House seat, and Mooney won handily.
In an interview with the AP before the general election, Mooney said the Democratic Party in West Virginia is “nearly obliterated,” calling Manchin “out-of-touch.”
“I don’t know how arrogant you have to be to think that as a Democrat U.S. senator, you can instruct Republicans who vote in primaries how to vote,” he said.
Mooney's quick announcement also serves as a warning shot to other Republicans considering the race. Gov. Jim Justice and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey have both mused out loud about the possibility of running for Manchin’s Senate seat.
“A robust democratic process has never been more important to our country and Senator Manchin encourages every candidate who values public service to enter the race,” Manchin’s communication director, Sam Runyon, said in a statement Tuesday.
Three months ago, Mooney released a “Mooney for Congress” television advertisement solely targeting Manchin. The ad asserts the Democrat “sold out West Virginia” when he voted to support President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.
“Suddenly, Joe Manchin is backing Joe Biden’s liberal agenda. Manchin is supporting legislation that will raise our taxes, tax our coal industry and devastate West Virginia communities,” the ad states. “Alex Mooney won’t let Joe Manchin and Joe Biden destroy our coal industry and devastate West Virginia.”
Manchin played a key role in the drafting of the Inflation Reduction Act, which invests nearly $375 billion to fight climate change, caps prescription drug costs for Medicare recipients and extended health insurance by extending subsidies provided during the coronavirus pandemic.
But Manchin, who has received more campaign contributions this election cycle from natural gas pipeline companies than any other lawmaker, won concessions on the climate front. The bill includes money to encourage alternative energy and to bolster fossil fuels with steps such as subsidies for technology that reduces carbon emissions.
Mooney says his decision to run for the Senate seat stemmed in part from Manchin's decision to vote against confirming Trump-nominee Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett days before the 2020 presidential election, calling it “offensive.” He also expressed disapproval for Manchin's stance on Roe v. Wade, saying it is hard to justify in a “pro-life state” like West Virginia where the state legislature recently passed a near-total abortion ban.
Manchin has said he supported keeping Roe, but sided with Republicans in May when the Senate sought to codify abortion access into federal law.
The West Virginia Democratic Party noted Tuesday that Mooney made his Senate run announcement on the first anniversary of the signing of the federal infrastructure law, a $1.2 trillion measure Manchin hashed out with Biden and others that Mooney opposed.
“Thanks to Senator Manchin’s leadership West Virginia didn’t lose out on this once-in-a-generation investment in our future,” state Democratic Party Chairman Del. Mike Pushkin said in a statement. “Unlike Senator Manchin, Congressman Mooney can’t point to a single legislative accomplishment for his years in Congress.”
Mooney urged West Virginians to look at his eight-year voting record and let it speak for itself.
“I have an actual conservative voting record, as proven, on the issues that matter,” he said, adding that he has consistently supported policy to reduce inflation, protect gun owner rights and support West Virginia's coal industry.
Mooney's bid for Senate comes as he remains the subject of two unresolved investigations from the House Committee on Ethics alleging he used campaign money for personal expenses and accepted a trip to Aruba paid for by a campaign client and family friend.
Mooney has insisted that he’s reimbursed campaign client HSP Direct and that no taxpayer funds were used to pay for the trip. He says his office is fully cooperating with the Committee on Ethics.