Former West Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Nick Casey is considering challenging freshman Republican Rep. Alex Mooney, who narrowly beat him last year for the open seat long held by GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.
“Oh you never say 'never,'” Casey told CQ Roll Call when asked about his interest in the 2nd District seat.
A Democratic operative confirmed the party is trying to recruit Casey and that he’s met with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Mitt Romney carried the district by 22 points in 2012, but in 2014, a blowout year for Republicans around the country , the tea party-backed Mooney won by just 3 points.
Democrats hit the Maryland transplant as a carpetbagger, while Mooney made every effort to prove his Mountain State credibility, even adopting West Virginia University’s blue and gold as his campaign colors.
"Now that I’m in the position doing the job," Mooney told CQ Roll Call Tuesday, "the next campaign will judge me based on the job I’m doing as opposed to repeating the personal attacks from last time."
Mooney said he hadn't heard much about Casey mounting another campaign.
"He certainly ran a strong campaign last time," Mooney said. "But it's not an open seat anymore, so the dynamics are different."
He noted both he and Casey were hurt by third-party challenges from a libertarian and independent candidate, who, collectively, won 9 percent of the general election vote.
Casey's also watching another race this cycle, waiting to see whether there will be a strong Democratic gubernatorial nominee whose coattails he can ride. Casey is close to Sen. Joe Manchin III, who announced last month that he’d remain in the Senate instead of running for governor.
It "would have been an easier decision for Casey to get in if Manchin were running,” a Democratic source said. But having self-funder Jim Justice, who told a local newspaper he’s weighing a gubernatorial bid as a Democrat, on the ticket “won’t hurt Casey,” the source added.
Before fending off a Democratic challenger, Mooney could face a repeat primary challenge from Ken Reed, a pharmacist who finished in a distant second place in last cycle's seven-way GOP primary.
With higher turnout expected in 2016, Democrats hope it could be Casey’s year. And it’s not just the presidential race that could encourage more Democratic voters to go to the polls, though Casey said any Democratic name on the top of the ticket would be better than President Barack Obama’s at mobilizing the party base in West Virginia.
Many other downballot offices in the state are also up in 2016, including a number of state House and Senate seats, circuit and family court judges and sheriffs. Casey joked that if everyone on the ballot showed up to vote, turnout would be higher than in 2014.
The seat is rated Safe Republican by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.
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