Capito headlines U.S. Senate primary in West Virginia

Shelley Moore Capito speaks with the Gray TV DC Bureau
Shelley Moore Capito speaks with the Gray TV DC Bureau(WHSV)
Published: Jun. 9, 2020 at 6:37 PM EDT
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Shelley Moore Capito hoped on Tuesday to move a step closer toward becoming the first West Virginia Republican to be reelected to the U.S. Senate in more than a century.

A Capito loss in the primary would set up a November showdown between GOP and Democratic candidates who lack statewide political experience.

Capito's main opponent was Allen Whitt, president of the Family Policy Council of West Virginia. In the Democratic primary, progressive Democrat Paula Jean Swearengin was competing against former state Sen. Richard Ojeda and former South Charleston Mayor Richie Robb.

Campaign finance records show Capito raised more than $4.2 million and had $3 million cash on hand, far more than all other candidates in both parties combined.

Republicans made major gains when Capito won the 2014 Senate race and bolstered the campaigns of other Republican candidates who captured all the state’s U.S. House seats for the first time since 1921. Capito, the daughter of the late three-term Republican Gov. Arch A. Moore Jr., is West Virginia’s first female U.S. senator and the first Republican since 1959.

President Donald Trump won 68% of the state vote in 2016. Capito hopes that red wave continues this year. The state hasn’t reelected a Republican to the Senate since 1907.

Swearengin was featured in the 2019 Netflix documentary “Knock Down the House.” She accepted only individual donations during her campaign and outraised Ojeda by a more than 10-to-1 margin. It was the second political race for Swearengin, who received 30% of the vote in the 2018 primary against Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin.

Ojeda lost to Republican Carol Miller in the 3rd District U.S. House race in 2018. He resigned his state Senate seat last year to mount a long-shot bid for president, then quit after two months.

Robb served as South Charleston's mayor from 1975 to 2007, and has run previous, unsuccessful campaigns for governor, Congress and state Senate. Currently an attorney, Robb reported no contributions or expenses in the primary.

In the U.S. House, this likely will be the last race as an incumbent for one of the three representatives. The state has lost population for seven straight years, and analysts have projected the loss of one congressional seat after the 2020 census.

First District Republican Rep. David McKinley had no primary opposition and will take on the winner of the Democratic primary between Keyser attorney Tom Payne and software company employee Natalie Cline.

In the 2nd District, Rep. Alex Mooney faced family physician Matthew Hahn. Energy analyst Cathy Kunkel ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Rep. Carol Miller took on Russell Siegel of Lewisburg in the 3rd District GOP race. The Democrats were Huntington bus service CEO Paul Davis, labor union executive Jeff Lewis, Hilary Turner of Huntington and doctoral student Lacy Watson.