Randy Yohe Published

Voter Insights: Justice Vs. Mooney U.S. Senate Primary

Hand puts paper ballot into voting box
The candidates say voters need to focus on the positives, not the negatives.
EUDPic/Adobe Stock

Political analysts say the two Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate in the upcoming May primary election give voters some particular, and troubling, food for thought. The candidates themselves say voters need to focus on the positives, not the negatives.

The latest numbers from the 538 ABC News polling website offer an average of all polls available on West Virginia’s U.S. Senate race.  

538 numbers show Gov. Jim Justice getting 55 percent of the vote while U.S. Congressman Alex Mooney, R-W.Va. District 2, tallied 17 percent.   

In looking closer at the candidates’ records, Marshall University Associate professor of Political Science Marybeth Beller said voters should also know something about Justice’s legal and financial entanglements.

“Carter Bank and Trust in Virginia is preparing to auction off some of the governor’s property because he’s not paying his bills,” Beller said. “We also have a lot of people who have worked for his mines and are now retired, who say that because the governor has businesses that have not paid their premiums, their health care gets disrupted. We need to look at the service record of these people in office but also out of office.”

Asked by WVPB in a recent media briefing specifically about what voters should think regarding those legal and financial entanglements, Justice said maybe he could have done a little better, but his business issues are not germane to his political life.

“To be perfectly honest, I don’t think that this will be a distraction in any way at all. None,” Justice said. “If it did, I wouldn’t do it. I mean, why am I doing it? Randy, why am I doing it? Am I doing it for me? I mean, are you kidding me? At the end of the day, the only reason in the world that I absolutely decided to run for governor, the only reason in the world that I’ve absolutely decided to run for the Senate has nothing to do with me. Nothing to do with any of my business has nothing to do with me in any way. I just want to serve and to try to help.”

Mooney said the Justice campaign cornerstone of running for office as a successful businessman does make his legal and financial entanglements relevant to the campaign.

“He has a terrible reputation for not paying bills, and he obviously has mismanaged things,” Mooney said. “And it’s Mr. Justice criticizing me because I don’t support the overspending we’re seeing at the federal government level. We’re bankrupting our country, or we’re creating a big problem, and he’s the last guy we need in there.”

Beller said voters need to be aware of Mooney’s record when it comes to the ongoing Congressional Ethics investigation. He has been accused of accepting impermissible gifts in the form of a trip to Aruba, using official resources, including staff time, for campaign work and personal errands – and campaign disbursements that may not be legitimate.

WVPB asked the congressman how voters should consider the ethics investigation.

“We’re answering all the questions with the regular committee and dealing with that,” Mooney said. “We’re dealing with that within the proper means. The voters are concerned about issues of everyday life like inflation, and what their federal government’s going to do to make sure they can afford groceries. And so that’s what I’m focused on.”

WVPB asked, “Did any of these things really happen? These gifts and resources and campaign disbursements?”

“I’ve publicly already answered those questions,” Mooney responded. “You’re talking about stuff that’s four years old now.” 

That investigation is still pending and has not been closed. 

With such a wide-spread gap in the polls favoring Justice, Beller believes Mooney remains in heavy campaign mode by hoping voters ignore his own issues. She thinks a Mooney wish is that Justice’s legal and financial entanglement might make it impossible to hold office. 

 “If something would happen, and Justice would not be able to carry out the nomination, if he gets the nomination, then it behooves Mooney to stay in contact and let voters know about him,” Beller said.