One seat, two incumbents: Republican congressmen face off in West Virginia to keep their job in DC

Published: May. 10, 2022 at 4:51 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Two sitting U.S. Congressman are locked in a contentious race in West Virginia as both work to keep their job on Capitol Hill.

U.S. Representatives Alex Mooney and David McKinley currently serve in separate districts. In the 2022 elections, however, they are opponents for the 2nd District due to redistricting.

The census shows West Virginia’s population has dropped by more than 3% from 2010 to 2020. That population decline has resulted in the state losing one of its three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The new election map divides the state between north and south.

“Oh losing a district, losing a seat is huge for the state,” said Dr. Kenneth Martis of West Virginia University, who is an expert on redistricting gerrymandering and the geography of elections. “At the time of the drawing of the map I was asked, what should the congressional districts look like? And to be honest and fair, I believe as a geographer that southern West Virginia is a community of interest as we call it in redistricting. That it is a place that has commonality. It is different than northern West Virginia.”

Rep. Alex Mooney describes himself as a conservative who is endorsed by former President Trump. In an interview with the Washington News Bureau, he urged voters to look at his record in Congress.

Under the new election map, Mooney said he’s running in 27 counties. He said 8 of those counties represent communities he already represents.

“I’m known in much of the state but there are 19 new counties added to the district, District 2, that I’m seeking reelection in. And so I have to introduce myself to a lot of new voters, who you know, haven’t had the chance to vote in my election before,” said Mooney, who added this is his eighth year in Congress.

Rep. McKinley, meanwhile, said his strategy is focused on talking about results.

“It’s one thing, when you run against anyone, is to show ‘why would I vote for you?’ And, I think the best thing is because we get results,” said McKinley. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and current Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin are endorsing McKinley.

The Washington News Bureau asked Dr. Martis if name recognition or issues become more important to voters in elections where incumbents are pitted against one another. Martis answered that voting behavior is very complex.

“Whoever loses they’ll probably I assume will come out and say I support this other person but there are deep division among the candidates themselves and their supporters,” said Martis.

The winning Republican and Democratic candidates in the primary will face off this fall when the general election takes place on Nov. 8.

Copyright 2022 Gray DC. All rights reserved.