A Republican who was backed by former President Donald Trump won a hotly competitive congressional primary in West Virginia on Tuesday, but another Trump candidate lost in Nebraska, marking the first setback for Trump in the 2022 primary season.
Last week, Trump’s candidates carried all of their races as Ohio and Indiana Republicans voted.
In West Virginia on Tuesday, Trump-backed Republican Rep. Alex Mooney defeated Republican Rep. David McKinley in the 2nd Congressional District primary, which had been triggered by reapportionment, according to Fox News. (West Virginia lost a congressional seat due to population decline recorded in the 2020 census.)
“I Love West Virginia. Congratulations to Alex Mooney on his BIG WIN!!!” Trump said in a statement.
McKinley had been targeted for criticism as one of only 13 Republicans who supported the infrastructure bill that passed the Democratic-controlled House earlier this year. He was also one of 35 Republicans who supported the creation of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s select committee to investigate the Capitol incursion.
Mooney attacked McKinley on those points last week at a rally in Pennsylvania, according to NBC.
“He voted for the January 6th commission to investigate Donald Trump and his allies,” Mooney said. “He was one of 13 so-called Republicans to vote for the Joe Biden-Pelosi non-infrastructure $1.2 trillion spending package. … He’s a liberal, RINO Republican. To be successful, we need to kick out these RINOs in primaries.”
Trump noted at that rally that the verdict of the voters would be read as a referendum on his endorsement.
“You better beat them easily,” Trump told Mooney. “Or I’m gonna look very bad. They’re gonna say, ‘Trump has lost it!’”
Mooney won the five-candidate primary with about 54.2 percent of the vote with 97 percent of the votes cast, according to NBC News. McKinley, his nearest competitor, drew 35.6 percent, NBC reported.
On Tuesday, according to Fox, Mooney thanked Trump for “his endorsement and support of my campaign – when Donald Trump puts his mind to something, you better watch out.”
In Nebraska, Trump-supported Charles Herbster, who had spent recent weeks denying allegations of groping multiple women, lost to Jim Pillen in the race to become the GOP candidate for governor, according to Axios. That ended Trump’s streak of successful endorsements at 23.
Current Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, who cannot run again due to term limits, supported Pillen, while Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida came into the state to campaign for Herbster.
“He’s been badly maligned, and it’s a shame,” Trump said in a pre-election appearance for Herbster, according to CBS. “I defend people when I know they’re good.”
Herbster referred to the character attacks Tuesday night after the polls closed, saying “one of the nastiest governor races in the state of Nebraska,” adding, “none of us want to go home tonight realizing that might have played a very, very significant role in the results.”
He also called for party unity.
“We have to try to unite the Republican Party in Nebraska. It’s going to take some work,” Herbster said. “We have to do that. It’s necessary. I’m going to go to the event tomorrow and have the chance to shake Jim Pillen’s hand.”
In the five-candidate field, Pillen and Herbster were the two top finishers. Pillen had 33.9 percent of the vote to Herbster’s 30.2 percent, according to The Associated Press.
Primary season continues next week in Pennsylvania when television celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz, who has Trump’s endorsement, faces off against other GOP candidates in a primary for the U.S. Senate nomination, including David McCormick, who served in the administration of former President George W. Bush and conservative political commentator Kathy Barnette.
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