Hoppy Kercheval, Opinion

Rep. Alex Mooney enters Senate race. More may follow

The race for the U.S. Senate seat in West Virginia in 2024 is already underway. West Virginia Republican Second District Congressman Alex Mooney announced on Talkline Tuesday that he is running.

“It’s been talked about a lot, but I’m going to announce,” Mooney said. “I’m announcing right now that I’m running for the U.S. Senate. I’m all in.”

The seat is now held by Democrat Joe Manchin, who has not announced his intentions for the next election. His office released a generic statement citing the importance of “a robust democratic process,” adding that Manchin “encourages every candidate who values public service to enter the race.”

Mooney has momentum.

He defeated veteran incumbent Republican Congressman David McKinley by 19 points in the primary earlier this year, winning all but three counties in the newly drawn Second Congressional District. He sailed to victory over his Democratic opponent last Tuesday, winning 66% of the vote.

Manchin is vulnerable.

He narrowly defeated Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in 2018 by three points. Manchin got a boost in popularity in the state among Republicans and conservative independents when he killed President Biden’s Build Back Better plan. However, that increased approval dissipated in August when he struck a deal with Biden and his fellow Democrats on the Inflation Reduction Act.

But the election is a long way off and Manchin has proven himself a political survivor in the state, even as it turns deeper shades of red.

Mooney is not the only Republican eyeing Manchin’s seat.

Chris Rose has already declared his candidacy. He is a coal miner who describes himself as “an ultra-MAGA conservative and political outsider who stands with President Trump and believes we must always put America first.”

Morrisey is considering another run for the Senate seat. However, he said on “580 Live with Dave Allen” Tuesday that it is too early to make a commitment for 2024, adding, “But I am asking people to kind of watch and wait and maybe don’t commit to some of the folks yet until we have a chance to maybe come onto the field.”

Gov. Jim Justice has casually tossed around the idea of a run for the Senate. “I do love the people of West Virginia,” he said, “and I am looking really, really, really hard at some kind of national office. Who knows?”

Secretary of State Mac Warner also has his eye on the Senate, although he could instead opt to run for governor or for reelection.

The U.S. Senate will remain evenly split with only the narrowest advantage for the Democrats heading into the 2024 election. That means the Senate race in West Virginia will be a closely watched and expensive contest with national implications regardless of who is running.

Hoppy Kercheval is a MetroNews anchor and the longtime host of “Talkline.” Contact him at hoppy.kercheval@wvradio.com.