Politics

Patrick Morrisey Wins West Virginia GOP Senate Primary

State attorney general will face Joe Manchin in November

West Virginia Republican Patrick Morrisey, right, attends a campaign event with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., left, at Richwood Industries in Huntington, W.Va., on May 3. Morrisey won the GOP Senate nomination Tuesday night. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has won the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III in November in what’s likely to be one of the most closely watched races in the country.

He took 35 percent of the vote in a six-way GOP primary field, besting Rep. Evan Jenkins and former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship who finished with 29 percent and 20 percent, respectively. 

The defeat of Blankenship, a former convict, is a win for national Republicans who spent upward of a million dollars attacking him.

Trump went as far as to tweet against Blankenship on Monday, saying he’d be unelectable in November and asking voters to “remember Alabama,” a reference to the Senate special election last December when Democrat Doug Jones upset controversial GOP nominee Roy Moore.

With the help of a super PAC supporting him, Morrisey hammered Jenkins throughout the campaign, accusing him of being a liberal. Meanwhile, Jenkins was also hit by national Democrats through a super PAC called Duty and Country. 

In the final days of the race, Morrisey turned his attention to Blankenship, who had seen a late surge in internal polling after last week’s Fox News debate. Morrisey released robocalls and a digital ad attacking the former coal executive for his role in a 2010 mine explosion in southern West Virginia and for serving time in prison in Nevada. He also attacked him for not filing his personal financial disclosure report, threatening to call Blankenship’s parole officer. (His parole ends Tuesday.)

Morrisey played up his conservative bona fides with endorsements from Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the pro-Trump Great America Alliance.

But as much as he campaigned as an outsider, often touting lawsuits he brought against former President Barack Obama’s regulations, he’s not without his own ties to Washington.

He used to work on Capitol Hill, and his past work for lobbying firms, as well as his wife’s lobbying work, were frequent sources of attacks in the primary. He previously ran for Congress in New Jersey, where he grew up and attended college.

Those are all attacks that could resurface in the general action. National Democrats spent heavily in the GOP primary, but a disproportionate amount of their spending was against Jenkins, suggesting they saw him as Manchin’s biggest threat. 

Morrisey end the pre-primary reporting period with $835,000 in the bank. Manchin ended the same reporting period with $5.3 million. 

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race a Toss-up.

ICYMI: Trump Throws Out Notes at West Virginia Event

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