Redistricting forces two GOP incumbents together in West Virginia

It’s official: The first potential incumbent-vs.-incumbent matchup of the 2022 congressional elections is here.

West Virginia’s state legislature on Thursday approved a new congressional map that condenses the state’s three seats into two and lumps GOP Reps. David McKinley and Alex Mooney in the same northern district. It is headed to Republican Gov. Jim Justice’s desk, and he is expected to sign it into law.

Mooney, a former Maryland state senator elected in 2014 shortly after he moved to West Virginia, said in a statement Thursday that he plans to seek reelection in the northern 1st District.

While McKinley, 74, has been gearing up for reelection, his plans are less certain. A McKinley spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A McKinley-Mooney primary could break along some of the prominent ideological GOP fault lines. Mooney is a member of the House Freedom Caucus and has a more conservative voting record. McKinley, first elected in 2010, voted for the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and against objections to the 2020 election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania from some supporters of then-President Donald Trump.

Mooney, 50, hinted that he plans to draw those comparisons.

“Our nation now more than ever needs fighters who will stand toe to toe with the radical left who are attempting to turn America into a socialist nation,” Mooney said. “As a proud member of the freedom caucus, unwavering supporter of President Trump and the son of [a] Cuban refugee, I will not back down in this fight for the future of America.”

The third-quarter fundraising reports due this week will bring a more clear financial picture, but Mooney likely has the edge. He had $2.5 million at the end of the past quarter, compared to McKinley’s $500,000.

The prospect of this awkward battle has been looming for months, if not years. West Virginia lost its third district in reapportionment, and none of the three incumbent members say they are ready to retire. Republican Rep. Carol Miller, 70, has the southern region of the state to herself in the 2nd District under the new map.

In perhaps an acknowledgment of his vulnerability in a GOP primary, McKinley took on an active role in pushing for a map that would split the state’s two panhandles into two different districts. That would have left him by himself in the north and pitted Mooney and Miller together in the south.

McKinley has been stepping up fundraising efforts for a 2022 run, according to sources close to him, and he has deeper ties to the state’s political establishment.

Mooney is widely believed to be eyeing a 2024 run against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and is likely hoping to avoid a brutal primary battle that could deplete his cash reserves and tarnish his image.

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