The next phase of the Republican Party’s fight for dominance will be decided on Tuesday in a key House contest in West Virginia and Nebraska’s gubernatorial primary, where former President Donald Trump is backing a candidate facing… allegations of sexual misconduct.
Trump’s influence is felt throughout May’s GOP primaries as candidates clamor for his support, especially after his pick was won in the Ohio Senate race last week. The candidates he backed in major contests on Tuesday have stood by him throughout his baseless campaign to raise doubts about the 2020 presidential election.
West Virginia, a state Trump has twice won by a landslide, will test how big his support is in the first incumbent vs. incumbent matchup of the cycle. Rep. Alex Mooney, whom Trump has backed, is taking on Rep. David McKinley for the new 2nd congressional district after Mountain State lost a district in the post-census redistribution process.
Mooney won Trump’s endorsement in part because he opposed Pennsylvania’s election count as Congress certified Joe Biden as a 2020 winner.
Not only did McKinley vote to certify Biden’s victory, but he also backed the formation of an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising — an effort that ultimately got boosted in the Senate but nonetheless sparked controversy. anger of Trump. He also backed the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which Trump has spoken out against.
While Mooney attacked McKinley as “a liberal” who supported this bipartisan legislation, there was no subtlety in his ads as he touted the former president’s endorsement as the centerpiece of his campaign.
One billed as a “MAGA alert” accused McKinley of supporting “Pelosi’s anti-Trump January 6 witch hunt.” And a district-wide radio ad in the last few days showed Trump calling Mooney a “warrior.”
McKinley has the backing of Republican Gov. Jim Justice, a former Democrat who moved his party’s registration to the GOP in 2017, and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat who took the unusual step of cutting an ad for McKinley, praising him for opposing “reckless spending” that could harm the people of his state.
McKinley attacked Mooney as a newcomer to the state who fails to grasp the depth of his concerns, drawing attention to the fact that Mooney was previously a state senator in Maryland. Manchin alluded to this all-in attack on the ad, saying Mooney and his “out-of-state supporters” were spreading the “outright lie” that McKinley supported Biden’s Build Back Better plan, whom Manchin had killed, citing concerns about inflation and spending.
“Alex Mooney has proven he’s all about Alex Mooney. But West Virginians know David McKinley is everything to us,” Manchin said in the announcement.
In Nebraska, Trump endorsed Charles Herbster, a businessman, farmer and rancher who is in a close three-way race against hog farmer and University of Nebraska board member Jim Pillen, and State Senator Brett Lindstrom.
As Trump won the state with 58% of the vote to Biden’s 39% in 2020, Republican Governor Pete Ricketts endorsed Pillen as the candidate who should succeed him and actively campaigned against Herbster, whom he described as n not being qualified for the position. . Recent in-state talks suggest that the popular governor’s support may carry as much, if not more, weight to many GOP voters in the state as Trump’s endorsement.
Herbster has faced fallout from a mid-April report in the Nebraska Examiner detailing accounts of seven women who said they were groped by him at political events or beauty pageants, and another woman who accused of forcibly kissing her. The examiner said all eight accounts were corroborated either by witnesses or by people who spoke to the women about what happened immediately afterwards.
Herbster dismissed the allegations in an interview with CNN as “politically timed libel” and said they were “100% false”. Adopting the aggressive tactics Trump championed during his own controversies, Herbster sued his first named accuser, Republican Senator Julie Slama, who Herbster said sexually assaulted her by pulling up her skirt and touching her without consent at a 2019 GOP dinner party. In the lawsuit, he alleged that his statements had “seriously damaged his reputation” and she filed a countersuit.
As part of his defense, Herbster claimed his opponents were using the same playbook they used against Trump in the 2016 campaign and then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. Both men were charged with sexual assault – allegations they denied.
Trump defended Herbster at a rally in Nebraska earlier this month, saying he was a “good man” who had “been badly maligned.”