Mooney's W.Va. House Bid Unites Conservatives

Wednesday, 02 Apr 2014 08:30 PM

By John Gizzi

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In a rare phenomenon in contested Republican primaries this year, national conservative organizations and their leaders are united in rallying to the candidacy of Alex Mooney for Congress in West Virginia's Second Congressional District.

While national conservative groups are often split in contested primaries, the May 13 contest for the nomination to run for the seat of outgoing GOP Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who is seeking an open U.S. Senate seat, stands in striking contrast because of the right-of-center unanimity behind one contender.

Mooney, 42, was endorsed this week by the Republican Liberty Caucus, a few weeks after Libertarian icon Ron Paul weighed in strongly for the conservative hopeful.

Along with libertarian Republicans, Mooney also has endorsements and/or donations from pro-Second Amendment groups (Gun Owners of America, National Association for Gun Rights), the Tea Party Express, and cultural conservatives such as the Family Research Council's political action committee, Eagle Forum, and Gary Bauer's Campaign for Working Families.

Also weighing in for Mooney are several fathers of the modern conservative movement, including direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie and Morton Blackwell, who has been mobilizing young people into conservative politics since he was the youngest delegate to the 1964 GOP presidential convention.

Joining them are newer faces of the right, such as Dave Bossie of Citizens United.

A former state senator and state GOP chairman from Maryland, Mooney and his wife and two children settled in West Virginia last February as he launched a new business.

When Capito declared for the U.S. Senate, Mooney told Newsmax, "I had hoped some other conservatives would run for the open seat." When none of them chose to run, Mooney decided to enter the race himself.

In a state with a history of relative newcomers winning major office, Mooney does not think his short stint as a West Virginian will cause him much harm.

He noted that retiring Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller had lived in the state less than two years when he won his first race for the state House of Delegates in 1966.

More recently, Republican Patrick Morrisey had lived in West Virginia only five years when he was elected attorney general in 2012 over 20-year Democratic incumbent Darrell McGraw.

"When you check out my conservative record against that of my two leading opponents — neither of whom is even pro-life — you'll understand the support I am getting," Mooney told Newsmax.

One of those opponents, pharmacist Ken Reed, put more than $200,000 of his own money into the race but has never held office and has no voting record on issues. The other major contender, former state Delegate Charlotte Lane, has a moderate record.

When Lane ran for state attorney general in 1996, the liberal Charleston Gazette endorsed her primarily because "she supports a woman's right to choose abortion, opposes the death penalty, supports pistol controls, and otherwise contradicts her party."

But with conservatives across the board lining up behind Mooney, the West Virginia race could show the power of unity come November.

In 2000, discussing conservatives' failure to unite behind a single primary candidate, the late conservative leader Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation told this reporter:

"It didn't used to be this way. In the 1970s and '80s, conservatives had big political action committees and worked together to get behind one candidate and get other conservatives to stand down. Now it's a case of 'we divide and the less conservative conquer.'"

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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