MORGANTOWN — Incumbent West Virginia Congressmen David McKinley and Alex Mooney appeared on MetroNews’ Talkline Thursday morning for the closest thing to a debate in their campaigns to win the GOP nomination to the new 2nd Congressional District in Tuesday’s primary.
Host Hoppy Kercheval called the format “a good, spirited discussion.”
The campaigns turned negative quickly after redistricting trimmed the Congressional districts from three to two and the new map pitted them against each other — with Mooney firing the first salvos.
The tension was visible Thursday. Except for a brief handshake at the end, they didn’t look at or talk to each other.
Accusations flew and at one point, after Mooney said McKinley wants all workers to be forced to join unions, McKinley responded, “I ignore that kind of trash from him.”
Kercheval steered the discussion through a series of topics. Here’s a look.
Bipartisan infrastructure bill
McKinley voted for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, along with Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito — who got the ball rolling on the bill in the Senate. Mooney and Rep. Carol Miller voted against it.
McKinley again cited the American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report card where West Virginia ranks last (scoring a D, the website shows) and said he’d waited 12 years to vote on infrastructure legislation.
He cited some of the benefits to the state, including work on Corridor H and the local Harmony Grove I-79 interchange. “We made sure the social spending was out of the legislation.”
Mooney said he voted no because of various green measures in the bill, such as a vehicle-miles-traveled tax pilot program and electric vehicle charging stations, and because it adds $250 billion to the federal debt. “I call it non-infrastructure.”
McKinley said Capito modeled the legislation on President Trump’s bill and passage was bipartisan. Only 2% of the bill was not hard infrastructure. “Are you going to turn your back” on sewer and water and broadband coverage for West Virginia because of that?
Mooney said he voted for a five-year infrastructure package five years ago but that he couldn’t support this omnibus when federal debt already stands at $30 trillion.
Kercheval brought up the leaked draft of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that appears to overturn Roe v Wade. He asked if either supports any kind of exceptions and if they would support a national ban on abortion. Both are endorsed by West Virginians for Life.
Mooney said he supports a national ban and has sponsored a bill to codify that life begins at conception. States could decide how to enforce that bill. He opposes exceptions for rape and incest.
McKinley said he’s not familiar with Mooney’s bill but there are 20-30 similar bills in the system. He’s been pro-life during his 14 years in the state Legislature and his 12 years in Congress. The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution puts abortion law in the hands of the states, not the federal government. He agrees life begins at conception. Laws regarding rape and incest are sensitive issues and belong in the hands of the states.
Jan. 6 insurrection
McKinley was one of 36 House Republicans to vote for HR 3233, to create the National Commission to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol Complex. Mooney voted against it. The bill died in the Senate. Both opposed the select committee Speaker Nancy Pelosi subsequently created and picked the GOP members for.
Kercheval asked if the two believe Jan. 6 amounted to a domestic terrorist attack.
McKinley said no, but that he supported a commission to find the truth, in the manner of previous commissions formed by Congress. “President Trump deserved to have his positions explained and illuminated.” Due process was needed.
He noted that California Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters fomented a significant amount of anxiety with her comments. “We’ll never know now.” With Pelosi’s panel, there’s “now a circus underway. This is not what we wanted.”
Mooney said of the commission and Pelosi’s committee, “I think it’s a witch hunt.” There are existing committees that could probe the matter.
Jan. 6 was not a domestic terrorist attack, Mooney said. “It was a protest, that’s what it was. … A few people broke in” and the law should handle that. There was no commission formed when the left-winger shot up a bunch of Republicans playing baseball. “I think it’s dividing America.”
With Trump’s persistence that the election was stolen, Kercheval asked if President Biden was duly elected.
McKinley said, “The Electoral College says so. The states say so.” There were irregularities, particularly in three states. He wants to restore confidence in the voting system and oppose Democratic efforts to federalize elections that capitalize on COVID measures.
While Biden was elected, he said, “he has failed us as a president.”
Mooney said, “I voted not to certify the electors in Pennsylvania.” But, “The process has occurred, so he’s elected.” It wasn’t fair, they cheated in Pennsylvania and the process was rigged. “I agree with the president, yeah.”
The Constitution says Congress shall choose the day for the election and that’s the day it should be done. He supports absentee voting but opposes early voting.
Mooney ethics probe
The Office of Congressional Ethics has alleged that Mooney misspent more than $40,000 of campaign money on personal expenses, possibly used staff for personal errands and tampered with evidence, and referred those matters to the House Ethics Committee.
The committee said it will announce its course of action on the matters on or before May 23 (which is after the primary).
Mooney never answered Kercheval’s question if he did misspend campaign money. Instead, he said the Office of Congressional Ethics reports contain misrepresentations and unsupported allegations and that he is working with the Ethics Committee.
Mooney said the same committee found McKinley guilty of violating House ethics regarding contracts for his Wheeling engineering company.
McKinley responded, “He knows better than that.” The issue was that he didn’t know and failed to change the name of his company after he was seated in Congress. He hasn’t owned it for 12 years.
He said that two House members who faced similar ethics allegations as Mooney went to federal prison. McKinley asked, “Did he indeed to destroy evidence? Did he destroy documents?”
Kercheval asked if they support sending the up to 15 million people illegally in the U.S. back to their home countries.
Mooney said, “That’s the law. I support enforcing the law.” He accused McKinley of supporting amnesty.
McKinley said he opposes amnesty and granting them voting rights until they go through proper channels. He supports finding a way to get them work permits and said they should pay taxes. Some came over when they were just toddlers. “We need this workforce. They’ve demonstrated willingness to work.”
Carpetbagger vs RINO
Mooney was a Maryland senator and led the Maryland GOP before moving to West Virginia and running for Congress. He’s been accused of being a carpetbagger, while he’s accused McKinley of being a Republican In Name Only — a RINO.
On core issues, McKinley said, “We agree 90% of the time.” That makes them both RINOs. But he’s a seventh-generation West Virginian. “To say I betrayed West Virginia, come on. I begin my day worrying about West Virginia; I end my day worrying about West Virginia.”
McKinley is recognized as the most bipartisan Republican in the House. Mooney sees that as a negative. “I think he’s a liberal Republican. He votes with the Democrats as much as possible.”
Mooney said he favors right-to-work laws and said McKinley wants to force people to pay union dues.
That’s when McKinley said, “I ignore that kind of trash from him.” McKinley said he’s been fighting $1 million in out-of-state money [possibly referring to Club for Growth Action, which regularly sends out pro-Mooney/anti-McKinley mailers while the Club for Growth PAC channels donations to Mooney’s campaign fund] aimed at buying the election. “I’m supported by West Virginians.”
McKinley said they rarely work together on anything. Mooney generally sits with the Maryland delegation.
Mooney scoffed at that, laughing. “I sit where I feel like it.”
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