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Mooney says he’s staying in West Virginia Senate GOP primary despite Justice polling lead

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GOP Rep. Alex Mooney said “there is not” a chance he would abandon his West Virginia Senate primary bid against Gov. Jim Justice in favor of seeking reelection to his House seat.

“That’s wishful thinking on their part,” he told West Virginia Metro News’ “Talkline” radio show. “I think they’re afraid of me.”

A September poll found Justice ahead of Mooney by more than 30 percentage points in the GOP primary. But Mooney argues the contours of the race have changed since Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced he would not seek reelection to his seat.

“Jim Justice is Joe Manchin 2.0. They’re basically the same,” Mooney said in the interview. “Why accept a liberal Republican when you can have a true conservative, especially with Joe Manchin now retiring?”

Mooney offered his roadmap for winning: “I’m unknown in the southern part of the state right now. … But as the election gets closer — and I’m able to define that I’m a conservative and that he is not — I believe the voters will turn to me and elect me in the primary, just as they did in the race against [former Rep.] David McKinley two years ago.”

Justice campaign manager Roman Stauffer, in response to Mooney’s remarks, called the governor’s opponent “a desperate, losing candidate being propped up by one of the largest Never Trump Super PACs in the country” while highlighting Justice’s conservative bonafides.

The primaries will take place on May 14.