State lawmakers feel the pressure – and say do not enjoy their royal role.
“I’m a first-name base, and I know all the members in the congressional delegation,” said GOP proclaimer Chris Pritt. “It can get very, very awkward.”
The state currently consists of three vertically stacked districts – but due to slow population growth, it has lost one of its three house seats in a redistribution. So far state legislators have proposed dozens of ways to condense them. But the most likely outcome will leave Miller, who represents the southern third of the state, in a district itself.
The state parliament convened on Monday for a special session to set the political boundaries. The map, which has progressed in the state Senate, links the northern land (where McKinley lives) with the eastern land (where Mooney lives). It will now go before the entire state Senate for approval.
The question now is whether the state House will adopt a similar map, or whether they will divide the state differently and force the upper house to negotiate. The first action there is expected this week.
A north-south split is most likely. However McKinley has pushed forward a competitive plan that GOP sources in the state say it has pulled a bit that would separate the two lands. His reasoning: separation of Morgantown, home of West Virginia University, and the eastern headland, which are among the fastest growing regions in the state.
“I don’t think it would be helpful if we put all the growing areas into the 1st District,” McKinley said in the “Talkline” podcast last month with WV Metro News reporter Hoppy Kercheval. The southern part of the state, McKinley noted, is declining in population and does not have to have its own district.
“Let’s not leave the south alone,” he said. “I think they need help.”
His interest may also be motivated by self-preservation: His favorite map probably pits Miller and Mooney against each other.
No matter how tight the line between the two remaining districts of the state, both will almost certainly remain in Republican hands. But the political futures of the incumbents weigh heavily much on state legislators.
“When we go from three to two, no matter how much you share the cake, someone will be unhappy, probably,” state Del said. Steve Westfall, a member of the GOP on the redistricting committee.
“They’re all active now,” he added. “So, I don’t think anyone is ready to retire yet.”
Two incumbents will soon have to balance the prospect of a brutal member against a member primary with their long-term goals.
In 2024, GOP Governor Jim Justice will be acting, and vulnerable Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is for re-election. No one wants to make any moves that could impede running for any of those offices.
And each would bring different packages – and strength – to the battle.
A former Maryland senator, Mooney transitioned to West Virginia to run for Congress in 2014, defeating carpet attacks to win a costly and bitter primary battle. In the House, he is probably the most conservative of the three and the only one who has joined the House Freedom Party.
His military chest is massive. He sat on $ 2.5 million until the end of June. (McKinley had $ 500,000, and Miller had only $ 126,000.)
Mooney is believed to be very interested in challenging Manchin. A bad primary election with another incumbent will drain his considerable resources and get his negatives. Some agents in the state speculate that he could retire in 2022, announce a challenge against Mancha in 2024 and then spend the next three years raising money and presenting himself to voters statewide.
But a Mooney spokesman said Monday he was an absolute candidate for re-election – even if he has to challenge one of his colleagues.
McKinley, 74, has probably was the most vocal of three in his attempt to sway parliament to a specific map. He has stepped up his fundraising efforts in recent months, according to sources close to him, a sign that he is not ready to retire.
Seventh-generation resident of Wheeling, he will most likely run in the county, which includes the northern headland, which separates Pennsylvania and Ohio. But as the most centrist of the three, he also has reasons to fear a contentious GOP primary. His main responsibilities were to vote to witness the election of Joe Biden in Arizona and Pennsylvania, and an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
McKinley, first elected in 2010, has also served the longest and has deep relationships with state lawmakers in Charleston who may be more open to his favorite map.
“He pushed that idea of separating the growing areas, and that ignited,” said one West Virginia GOP political agent who gave anonymity to speak frankly. “I think people have been looking for a reason to reward him and not reward Alex. Mooney.”
Unlike McKinley, Mooney’s roots are elsewhere. Prior to moving to West Virginia, Mooney served as the president of the state of Maryland GOP. His chief of staff is a Maryland state senator.
Miller, who was elected in 2018 after a dozen years in the state House, also has allies in the legislature. She sits on the powerful Roads and Resources Committee and serves as the recruiting chair for the National Republican Congressional Committee, donating her additional cache in Washington.
She won a packed open seat in 2018 and is no stranger to tough races. (As a bison farmer she used “cut the bull” as her campaign slogan.) And Miller also voted against accepting presidential voters both in Pennsylvania and Arizona, which she could show in an attempt to seek the support of former President Donald Trump if paired with another incumbent . Miller has no plans to pull blows against Mooney or McKinley and will use her pro-Trump record if necessary, according to a source close to her campaign.
Mooney only objected to witnessing the victory of Pennsylvania by now President Joe Biden – not Arizona.
“I am 100 percent running for re-election,” Miller said in a statement. “My mission in Congress is to bring investment and opportunity to West Virginia, and my voters, whatever the end lines, can trust that I will never stop fighting for them.”