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Jim Justice wins West Virginia's Republican Senate primary

Inside PA Politics with Jon Delano - 4/24/2024
Inside PA Politics with Jon Delano - 4/24/2024 22:00

Republican Gov. Jim Justice won West Virginia's GOP Senate nomination on Tuesday as voters across two states with antithetical politics decided primary contests with big implications for the Senate majority fight this fall.

In all, three states hosted statewide primary elections on Tuesday — Maryland, Nebraska and West Virginia — as Republicans and Democrats pick their nominees for a slate of fall elections. None were more consequential than Senate primaries in deep-blue Maryland and deep-red West Virginia, where Republicans are eying pickup opportunities that could flip control of Congress' upper chamber for at least two years.

At the same time, Democratic President Joe Biden and Republican rival Donald Trump tried to project strength in low-stakes presidential primaries in all three states. Further down the ballot, two congressional candidates on opposite sides of the 2021 Capitol attack serve as a stark reminder that the nation remains deeply divided over the deadly insurrection.

Justice won his primary against U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney in the race to replace Sen. Joe Manchin. With Manchin gone, the seat is almost guaranteed to turn red come November.

The Trump-endorsed Justice, a former billionaire with a folksy personality, is wildly popular in the state. He also earned Trump's endorsement. A former Democrat, Justice switched to the Republican Party in 2017, announcing the change at a Trump rally.

Mooney had tried to win over conservatives by labeling Justice a "RINO" — which stands for "Republican in name only" — who would support Democratic policies. Justice did support Biden's bipartisan infrastructure law, saying West Virginia couldn't afford to turn away the money offered in the bill.

At a polling place in West Virginia's capital city, voter Steve Ervin said his votes Tuesday were directly related to Trump.

"I really did an exhaustive study of the sample ballot of who I believe supported Trump and Trump supported them," said Ervin, who works in the state's unemployment office. "That's what I made my whole decision on."

West Virginia is also deciding its candidates for governor. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the Republican nominee in the 2018 Senate race against Manchin, is running for the Republican nomination. He's up against former state Rep. Moore Capito, whose mother is Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.

Biden, Trump wins primaries in West Virginia

Both Biden and Trump won their primaries in West Virginia. Biden and Trump have already amassed enough delegates to claim the presidential nominations at their respective national conventions this summer. 

Derek Faux, an independent voter from Charleston, W.V., said he supported Haley, and in other Republican races, he said he voted for the candidates he believed were least like Trump.

"I would rather see moderate, reasonable Republicans than some of the other folks," said Faux, a librarian.

U.S. Rep. Carol Miller defeats Jan. 6 rioter Derrick Evans

Congresswoman Carol Miller has held off a challenge from convicted Jan. 6 riot participant Derrick Evans to win the Republican primary for her U.S. House seat in West Virginia.

Miller defeated Evans in the 1st Congressional District and will try to capture her fourth term in November. Miller focused on her own accomplishments and endorsements during her campaign, paying little attention to Evans. Not that it was easy.

Evans verbally attacked Miller with nearly every campaign email that he sent out over the past month that included name-calling and reinforcing his adoration for former President Trump.

Miller expressed her gratitude in a statement following the primary victory.

"I'm thankful to represent my wild and wonderful state in Washington," Miller said, "and I will continue to work to make West Virginia the best place to live, work, and raise a family."

Evans was arrested two days after the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol and resigned from his West Virginia House of Delegates seat a month before the 2021 legislative session. Evans served three months in prison after pleading guilty to a felony civil disorder charge. 

At his sentencing, Evans apologized for his actions, but he did an about-face upon leaving prison. He began portraying himself as a victim of a politically motivated prosecution.

Both Evans and Miller are huge backers of former President Trump, but that's where the similarities may end.

Miller has kept a low profile compared to some of her more outspoken colleagues since becoming the third woman from West Virginia elected to Congress in 2018. The 73-year-old bison farmer and small business owner also served six terms in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Her father is the late U.S. Rep. Samuel Devine of Ohio.

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