Politics

Super PAC Staffs Up for Morrisey in West Virginia GOP Primary

Morrisey led Jenkins in mid-October poll commissioned by 35th PAC

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is running for the GOP Senate nomination. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A super PAC supporting West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in the GOP Senate primary is staffing up for the 2018 contest. 

The hires, shared first with Roll Call, will be announced Wednesday. 

Morrisey is vying against 3rd District Rep. Evan Jenkins for the GOP nod to take on Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, number four on Roll Call’s ranking of most vulnerable senators in 2018.

D.J. Eckert, co-founder and partner at Matchstick Media Strategies, will serve as executive director of 35th PAC, which registered with the FEC in March — before Jenkins or Morrisey had officially launched their campaigns. 

Eckert is based in Columbus, Ohio, where he’s managed supreme court and attorney general races. He's also worked on campaigns in Virginia and Mississippi and served as deputy political director for the Republican State Leadership Committee and the political director for former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s PAC. 

Phil Cox, former executive director of the Republican Governors Association, will serve as senior adviser. Cox is the chairman of the digital firm IMGE, which will be doing digital advertising for 35th PAC.

For polling, the super PAC is using Fabrizio, Lee and Associates, which did polling for President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. Polling from the group showed Morrisey leading Jenkins by 6 points, 40 to 34 percent, with 26 percent of likely primary voters undecided.

Morrisey’s favorable rating was at 51 percent while his unfavorable rating was 13 percent. Jenkins’s favorable rating was 39 percent and his unfavorable rating was 5 percent. Only 11 percent of likely primary voters had “never heard of” Morrisey, a statewide office holder, compared to 34 percent who had never heard of Jenkins.

Fabrizio, Lee and Associates surveyed 400 likely primary voters on landlines and cell phones on Oct. 19 and 22. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.9 percent. 

Larry Weitzner at Jamestown will be doing TV ads for 35th PAC, while communications strategist Lenny Alcivar is handling communications. Martin Baker from Political Ink is the mail vendor.

The contest between Jenkins and Morrisey has already been one of the nastier intra-party fights this year. Jenkins was first to announce his campaign. Within hours of his launch, 35th PAC was attacking him for previously having been a Democrat, calling Jenkins and Manchin "two peas in a pod." 

According to 35th PAC’s mid-year FEC filing, reported in July, the super PAC had spent $400 and raised $21,000 from just three donors, one of whom was Koch Industries.

Morrisey is trying to run as the outsider candidate. He has the backing of the pro-Trump group Great America Alliance. But he's not without his own ties to Washington. He used to work on Capitol Hill, and his past work for lobbying firms, as his well as his wife's lobbying work, have already been the source of attacks in the primary. He previously ran for Congress in New Jersey, where he grew up and attended college.

Mountain State PAC, which filed with the FEC in August, is a super PAC backing Jenkins. It's attacking Morrisey as the "pride of the D.C. swamp."

Morrisey raised $674,000 in the third quarter and ended with $549,000 in the bank. He’s loaned his campaign $60,000. Jenkins raised $221,000 and ended with $1.25 million in the bank.

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