Crowded GOP Field Divides Big Money Donors in West Virginia House Election

Seven Republicans, two Democrats, and one independent have stepped up to claim the West Virginian House seat U.S. Representative Shelley Moore Capito (R-02) is vacating for a shot at the Senate.

The House position for the Mountain State’s 2nd Congressional District — which Capito has held safely for six terms — remains a closely watched domino that Republicans hope will once again fall in their direction come the November midterms.

That may change if one Democrat continues to out-raise his widely favored Republican rival. According to OpenSecrets.org, Democrat Nick Casey, a certified public accountant, pulled in nearly $700,000 by the last quarter.

The site reported that just less than half of that amount comes from Casey’s own pockets, with large individual contributors and political action committees accounting for 44 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Small contributors helped the Democrat count $24,485 in campaign coffers by year-end.

By contrast, his Republican rival, Alex Mooney, a former Maryland state senator, raised only $361,111 by December last year, according to OpenSecrets.org. Twelve percent came from PACs, less than 10 percent from small individual contributors, and a whopping 78 percent from large individual contributors.

With Capito having declared her candidacy in late November, timing could account for the former state senator’s fundraising disadvantage in the reliably conservative state, but a Republican field divided seven ways means the competition is considerable as funders decide where to place their bets.

Two other leading GOP candidates — former U.S. International Trade Commissioner Charlotte Lane and pharmacy CEO Ken Reed — have each brought in more than $200,000, with Lane closest to her next hundred-thousand-dollar mark by the end of the last quarter, according to the Open Secrets. Another contender, Ron Walters, a financial consultant, claimed his own share of the funder’s pie with $128,020 by the end of December.

The only independent currently in the election is former CBS news correspondent Ed Rabel.

The running may become more fluid for Republicans if carpetbagger claims continue to dog Mooney. Even so, Casey’s hold in as a candidate may be tenuous in a state that has swung right in presidential elections since 1996.

Reports consistently find that West Virginia is as culturally conservative as it is economically dependent on the coal industry, long a linchpin in conservative fundraising circles — even with 2012 USDA data showing that nearly 20 percent of its residents also rely on food stamps.

In 2008, CNN revealed that 68 percent of the state’s voters self-identified as evangelical Christians, helping claim the state for the Republican presidential ticket that year. Capito herself trumped her Democratic opponents by nearly two-thirds of the vote in her central West Virginian district for the past two election cycles.

That climate may yet make Mooney — a candidate with endorsements from the Senate Conservatives Fund and Tea Party Express — a safer bet than his Democratic opponent in November.

West Virginia selects candidates for a public office with a mixed-primary system. Unaffiliated voters must register by April 22 in order to cast their ballots in either party’s primary.

Photo Credit: Office of Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito