By Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Two former state political party chairmen will square off in November for the congressional seat left open by Republican Shelley Moore Capito, with the GOP hoping to capitalize on antipathy toward the president so the party can hang onto the district.

The 2nd Congressional District is fairly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, and Capito - who has served seven terms and is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Jay Rockefeller - has faced tea party-fueled criticism for not being conservative enough. But in a state where President Barack Obama’s energy policies are widely considered an affront to the coal industry, the GOP has an apparent edge.

Meanwhile, in the 3rd district, Republicans have their sights set on longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall’s seat. He is the lone Democrat among the state’s three members of Congress, and he’ll likely face a stiff November challenge from Democrat-turned-Republican Evan Jenkins.

Alex Mooney took the 2nd District GOP primary over six other candidates. The Eastern Panhandle resident has spent much of his political career in Maryland, where he was a state senator for more than a decade and then served as that state’s Republican Party chairman.

Unofficial, incomplete returns show Mooney had 36 percent of the vote, Berkeley County pharmacist Ken Reed had 22 percent and Charleston attorney Charlotte Lane had 18 percent.

Others in the race were Charles Town private investigator Robert Fluharty, former state legislator Steve Harrison, Hurricane businessman Jim Moss and Charleston financial consultant Ron Walters Jr.

Mooney will face Nick Casey, a former West Virginia Democratic Party chairman who easily defeated state delegate Meshea Poore in Tuesday’s primary.

Unofficial, incomplete returns showed Casey ahead by 19 percentage points.

The 2nd district stretches more than 300 miles from the Ohio River on the state’s western border to the fast-growing Eastern Panhandle. The issues in the campaign are as diverse as the district itself.

Casey, who has the backing of business, labor and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, wants to focus on improving roads and promoting coal, natural gas and other energy resources to bring jobs to West Virginia and keep young adults from heading out of state.

He said state residents “want a change in how Congress and Washington politicians address the things West Virginians care about instead of fighting partisan battles to no positive end.”

Mooney points to a need for reduced federal government spending and reversing Obama’s energy policies. GOP opponents had riddled him for being in the state only a short time.

But Mooney said the Republican Party’s values cross state lines.

“I am ready to go toe-to-toe with President Obama and show him and his administration what it means to be a West Virginia conservative,” the Charles Town resident said.

Casey led the state Democratic Party from 2004 until 2010 and served as a legislative lobbyist for decades. He far outspent Poore, who was trying to become the first black person from West Virginia elected to the House.

In the 3rd district, unofficial, incomplete returns showed Rahall with a hefty lead over retired Army officer Richard Ojeda.

It marked only the third primary challenge for Rahall since 2000.

Rahall, the only remaining Democrat in the state’s three-member U.S. House delegation, will seek his 20th term in the U.S. House in November’s general election.

Standing in his way will be Jenkins, 53, who switched parties last summer after 20 years as a Democrat and was unopposed for the GOP nomination.

“I’m ready for it,” Rahall said.

Long before voters went to the polls in the primary, the fall campaign already was in full stride with Rahall and Jenkins targeting each other and outside interests buying radio and TV spots.

Americans for Prosperity, funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, has paid for ads criticizing Rahall’s vote for the federal health care law. Jenkins, 53, executive director of the West Virginia State Medical Association, has said the law is costly and kills jobs. He has pledged to repeal it.

First District Republican Rep. David McKinley will face Democratic state auditor Glen Gainer III in November. Both ran unopposed in Tuesday’s primary.

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