It’s been over a month since I published my last article, and many of you probably wondered whether I had quit writing. In a way, I did, though not intentionally. It was more that I didn’t have time to write as I had become absorbed in an amazing new job. For 3 weeks (April 18th to May 10th), I had the honor and privilege of working for the congressional campaign of Congressman Alex Mooney. And in that 3 weeks, I got to watch something amazing take place as the people of West Virginia picked him over David McKinley.
For the privacy of the people I worked with, I have omitted their names and will instead use their job titles.
Let’s wind this back a bit now…
I officially began working for Alex on the 18th of April, but this story goes back a bit farther. In late March, a friend of mine who happened to be a long-time friend of Alex’s suggested I work with his campaign. Nothing fancy mind you, just fieldwork. Alex already had a comms guy, and they just needed someone with experience doing fieldwork and handling volunteers. Before I got that far though, they wanted me to come out and volunteer for a weekend.
On the weekend of April 9th, I went out to Charles Town, West Virginia with a few other guys that were close friends with Alex, who had also come out that weekend to volunteer. On our first day, we went out to the town of Inwood, then later up to Berkley. I can’t remember how many doors we knocked on that day, but even as just a volunteer I felt a sense of excitement at the outpouring of support we had from the people who came to the doors. On Sunday, we went to a development closer to Charles Town for some more door-knocking. On that day I was assigned a new volunteer to oversee, and I feel this is where I made my mark as that volunteer quickly became comfortable with the campaign software and the task of knocking on doors.
And that’s how I got started…
I went back to Baltimore on the 10th. By Tuesday, the campaign confirmed they wanted me out there to help manage volunteers, and for the rest of the week, I worked out details like travel and spent a few days trying to recruit more volunteers over the phone. I felt a lot of anticipation that week, people were already paying attention to this campaign as a “GOP referendum on Trump”. Of course, as usual, the media had missed the point of this race entirely. But even I wouldn’t see that until a few weeks later.
On Sunday the 17th I took a train to Harper’s Ferry, and the next day I met up with the Field Director. My First Week on the Campaign was spent out in Morgantown, West Virginia in winter conditions that were unexpected for April. Literally unexpected, on the way out there the Field Director and I ended up driving through a blizzard. And it continued to snow until the last day we were out there. We were also met with lukewarm enthusiasm, as while many people were upset with McKinley, they were also not totally sold on Alex at that time either.
We left Monongalia County having made little noticeable progress, but that was understandable with the harsh terrain being as much of a challenge as the fact McKinley was their incumbent. It however was not a total loss as in the end, we won that county by 1000 votes. All the way back in the eastern panhandle we were greeted with more hospitable weather, and more hospitable people. In Mooney’s own district, there was huge momentum in his favor. That said, it wasn’t all easy since some people bought into David McKinley’s message of nativism, and the lies McKinley told about Alex, all the way up till election day.
A Tale of Two Candidates
As Candidates, Alex and McKinley were wildly different, not just in who they were but in how they ran:
To be fair, I never personally met McKinley, although I know someone who has. Both McKinley and this individual were Purdue Alumni so there was some camaraderie there. That said, this person supported Alex over David. Having known both candidates personally he said they were both good guys, although I wonder how someone can defend McKinley after much of what he said and did. But he certainly felt Alex was the better candidate even though they were both good guys.
McKinley was born in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1947. According to McKinley, his family has hailed from West Virginia for seven generations. He attended Purdue University and got a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering in 1970. McKinley was a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates from 1980 to 1994. He was also head of the West Virginia GOP from 1990 to 1994 as well. In 1996 he ran in and lost the West Virginia GOP Primary for Governor.
In 2010, he ran for and won the 1st Congressional District Seat for West Virginia. He held that seat for over a decade without ever facing a primary challenger and thus never faced a test of his popularity. During that time he toed the party line and followed the establishment’s rules, with one exception being that he voted against the Republican Budget of 2012 because he claimed it would raise Medicare costs. After Donald Trump left office though, he became increasingly left-leaning, taking the side of politicians like Cheney and Kinzinger in the GOP’s internal power struggle between America First mindsets and status quo establishment types who wanted to return us to the lackluster Republican Party of the late 2000s and early 2010s. This was evident in his stances and his voting record in the last few years.
Even before Trump left office, McKinley abandoned the interests of the Republican base and the voters of West Virginia. In 2019 he voted in favor of the so-called “Farm Workforce Modernization Act” of 2019 which was poised to give amnesty to millions of Illegal Immigrants. Then as soon as Trump left office he put a knife in the former president’s back by voting in favor of Nancy Pelosi’s January 6th Witchhunt, knowing full well it would be biased and partisan. McKinley, who had never had his position challenged before, didn’t care and he went on to vote in favor of Biden’s “Infrastructure Bill” where less than 10% of the funds were earmarked for actual infrastructure. And to top it all off, McKinley has publicly supported Red Flag Laws in the past.
What I find most damning about David McKinley though is his apparent feeling of entitlement and his views about holding office. McKinley’s entire campaign was based on lies and mischaracterizations about Congressman Mooney, both his voting record and his ethics. He also ran on the premise that he deserved the seat because he was from West Virginia, and Alex was an immigrant to the state. If you dig deeper though, more comes to light about McKinley’s general attitude. McKinley apparently penned an op-ed in a Colorado newspaper claiming that Lauren Boebert, a member of the house freedom caucus alongside Congressman Mooney, was unfit to serve in The House for many reasons, including the fact that Representative Boebert only had a GED. This is a shocking remark to make when you come from a state where 14% of the population have less than a high school education and only 26% have a college degree, to claim 14% of your constituency is unfit to hold office. Essentially, McKinley’s entitled re-election message to West Virginians was “My family has been here 7 generations and I am better than you, so vote for me you ignorant peasants.”
Alex by contrast is a real “down-to-earth” guy, a man of the people. I first met Alex on April 9th, during the weekend I came up to volunteer. After a day of hiking around Inwood and Berkley, I was invited by the two other volunteers I came up with to join them and Alex to watch the UFC fight that evening. And so on a Saturday night in April, I found myself drinking beers and watching UFC 273 in a barn with a Congressman. And that’s an image that firmly stuck in my head about what kind of Congressman Alex is. He isn’t the kind of DC jet setter with a mansion in McLean, attending fancy cocktail gala’s that the average man can’t afford to even step into. He is a down-to-earth American, a son, a husband, a father of three kids, and the kind of guy you can have a beer and watch a fight with.
Alex was born in Washington DC in 1971 to his mother Lala, a former political prisoner who escaped Castro’s Cuba, and his father Vincent, a Vietnam Veteran. While born in DC, he was raised in Fredrick, Maryland. In 1993 Alex received his BA in Philosophy at Dartmouth. After college Alex began his career in public service interning for Representative Ed Royce and later serving as a staff assistant to Representative Roscoe Bartlett. In 1995, he became a Legislative Analyst for the House Republican Conference, where he served till he was elected to the Maryland Legislature in 1999.
He served in the legislature till 2011 and then did a short stint as Chairman of the Maryland GOP. However, it quickly became apparent to Alex that Maryland was unstoppably going in the wrong direction and was no longer a good place to raise his family. Alex gave up his position as Chair of the Maryland GOP and moved to West Virginia with his Mother Lala, his wife Grace, and their (at the time) 2 children. In 2014, Alex ran for the newly vacated 2nd Congressional District seat and won, becoming the first Latino elected to West Virginia’s Congressional Delegation in the state’s history. Alex has fought off primary challengers in almost every election since, a testament to how well he has represented the 2nd Congressional District.
On the issues, Alex has been true to his constituents. He voted against the 2019 “Farm Workforce Modernization Act”, against the January 6th Witchhunt, and against Biden’s non-infrastructure Bill. Alex also voted not to certify the electoral votes in Pennsylvania because Democrats there violated election laws and violated the Pennsylvania State Constitution by subverting the authority of the legislature and allowing the courts to change election laws in their favor. McKinley by contrast voted to certify Pennsylvania despite the legal irregularities, ignoring the concerns of his own constituents. But Alex’s record stands on more than just his “No” votes.
Alex supports a return to the Gold Standard, an idea that the value of our currency should be tied to a tangible asset such as Gold. This of course would help stymie inflation in a time when our country is suffering from extreme inflation due to the Biden presidency (which McKinley enabled), and in general, would lead to more responsible fiscal policy. To this end, last year Alex introduced a bill to audit the United States Gold reserves for the first time since President Eisenhower held office, a helpful first step towards returning to the Gold Standard. Alex has also been active in combating the opioid crisis. In 2018 Alex testified on and voted in favor of the THRIVE act which gave housing vouchers to people recovering from opioid addiction provided they are seeking treatment, and last year Alex sponsored the Safe Disposal of Opioids Act which created and provided the funding to maintain 10,000 safe disposal boxes for prescription drugs at pharmacies across the county. He also sponsored a bill that provided help to babies suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.
The Clash Between The Establishment Sweetheart and The Man of the People
And so the stage was set. Of course, I was only there basically for what was the last month of the campaign. At that time, it was still a hotly contested contest on paper. Still, there were telltale signs that things were moving in Alex’s direction, and it was more than just the Trump Endorsement. It was how the campaigns were being run.
On our side, I immediately observed how many people were willing to volunteer their time for Alex for free. I was one of a select handful of paid staff, most of Alex’s door knockers however were unpaid volunteers who gave us their time to knock on doors, make phone calls, and stuff envelopes. And that list of volunteers kept growing every week I was up there. One of my jobs was to instruct them on using the walk lists and making phone calls, so it was very reassuring to see the enthusiasm of these volunteers. By the 10th, our list of staff and volunteers was over 110 people, and we had contacted over 100,000 voters on the phone or at their doors.
From McKinley’s side, there were stories of firms paid to do door knocking, paid staff literally harassing voters, and offices closing because he couldn’t keep them staffed. The only thing McKinley had in his favor was endorsements from Mike Pompeo and Jim Justice, figures moderately popular in the Republican Party and in West Virginia. But that was overshadowed by the endorsements Alex had from the American Conservative Union, and the Campaign Rally we had with the extremely popular Congresswoman Lauren Boebert. But his biggest failing was the fact that McKinley had to rely on personally attacking Alex rather than his record in congress. In the end, none of this won McKinley any votes.
The Best Man Won
On election night, things were tense. In any campaign, you should never ever count on victory before the results are announced. Luckily, the wait was short and the results were good. The race was called for Alex when he had 52% of the vote. At the final count, Alex won 54.2% of the vote to McKinley’s 35.6%. In the end, West Virginia picked the man who fought the opioid crisis and the left-wing spending agenda over a man who voted to put our nation in generational debt and then tried to slander his way back into office.
It was a heady night, and I may have drank too much. But it was a remarkable thing being there and being part of an event that set the tone for our Republican Party. And once again, I want to take the time to thank the people I worked with. I want to thank the volunteers I worked with, there were so many, and they were all great people. And I want to thank the Campaign Manager, the Field Director, the Finance Director, and Alex’s mother Lala. I was proud to work alongside them. And of course, I want to thank Alex himself. If he hadn’t been such a great public servant, West Virginia would not have had the opportunity to so profoundly shape the direction of our party.
In the end of the course, when everything is said and done, people got one thing majorly wrong about the race for WV-2. The 2022 Primary was not a referendum on Trump, it was a referendum on elitists versus the people. And Alex won. And West Virginia won. And most importantly, the people won.
One thought on “3 Weeks in West Virginia: Why Voters Chose Alex Mooney Over the Establishment”