Defying conventional geography, Alex Mooney moved west from Maryland on his way — possibly — to Washington D.C.
Last seen on the local scene running the Maryland state Republican Party, the former state senator has wasted no time carving out a new political career in West Virginia, winning the Republican primary in May for an open U.S. House seat in the state’s 2nd congressional district and given an excellent chance of capturing the seat for the GOP in November.
“My mother is a refugee from Cuba and I’m a refugee from Maryland to West Virginia,” Mr. Mooney jokes.
He said in an interview that he decamped with his family to West Virginia because of a growing dislike of Maryland’s liberal policies on guns, same-sex marriage and gerrymandering. Mr. Mooney said he wanted his children to grow up in a conservative atmosphere, and it happened to be one state away.
Mr. Mooney served as a Maryland state senator for 12 years and chaired the Maryland Republican Party beginning in 2010. The district where he is now running covers a central slice of the state that includes the growing exurban towns on the fringes of Washington, D.C.’s metropolitan area and the state capital in Charleston.
His campaign plays up his recent move to the state, citing the candidate’s desire to raise his two children in an environment that respects traditional values. A recent campaign video said, “Alex Mooney came to West Virginia to live in freedom, and he’ll fight Obama to preserve it.”
The tea party-backed candidate — who has campaigned on a National Rifle Association A+ rating and a 100 percent pro-life voting record — shook off the label of carpetbagger by winning 35 percent of the vote in the Republican primary to square off against Democrat Nick Casey in the November general elections. The two are battling for the seat of GOP Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who is running for Senate.
“I think there was a need for someone like me to run, and I think frankly the primary proved that,” he said. “Everywhere we travel, we hear from West Virginians who are sick and tired of the job-killing policies coming out of Washington.”
While handicapper Stuart Rothenberg has rated the district as “leaning Republican,” Democrats are already capitalizing on Mr. Mooney’s extremely short history with the state.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Mr. Mooney’s campaign funds coming largely from outside the Mountaineer State, a fact not lost on his opponents. Some 97 percent of Mr. Mooney’s campaign cash came from out-of-state donors, while 78 percent of Mr. Casey’s came from West Virginia.
“The donations come from those who share my conservative values,” said Mr. Mooney. “It’s basically a non-issue to the voters.”
Mr. Casey, who served as the former West Virginia’s Democratic Party chairman, attacked Mr. Mooney’s credibility in West Virginia in a recent television ad. He noted his opponent’s long history in Maryland politics and the fact he hasn’t ventured to buy a house in his new home state, with Ricky Nelson’s “Travelin’ Man” in the background.
By contrast, Mr. Casey notes he was “born on the left hand of the Lens Creek, near Marmet, [and] grew up in the shadow of the Libbey-Owens glass factory smokestacks, in a cinder-block duplex built by his dad and uncles.”
Mr. Mooney’s lack of experience in West Virginia has even fueled some Republican support for Mr. Casey. The “Republicans for Casey” group includes the endorsements of Charleston Mayor Danny Jones and Charleston City Council President Tom Lane, among others. Republican officials say the talk of GOP defections is greatly exaggerated.
But Mr. Mooney argues that the district he seeks to represent is very similar to his Maryland state senate district centered around Frederick, Maryland. He carried 15 of the 17 counties in the May 13 primary.