We’re one year away from the next Primary Election in West Virginia and the 2018 General Election isn’t for 18 months, but the campaign for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Joe Manchin is already underway.
West Virginia 3rd District Republican Congressman Evan Jenkins has entered the race, releasing a YouTube video where he attacks Manchin. “Joe changed when he got to Washington,” Jenkins says in the video. “West Virginia values? Not anymore.”
Jenkins has been positioning himself for some time. He stepped up his fundraising efforts, collecting $367,000 in the first quarter, boosting his campaign war chest to just over $1 million.
The two-term Congressman started his campaign contrasting himself with Manchin, but Jenkins first must worry about getting the nomination. West Virginia Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has not yet announced his candidacy, but clearly he’s in campaign mode.
Morrisey took to Twitter Monday to question Jenkins’ conservative credentials. “Looks like Obama and Hillary now have two candidates running in WV. No, thank you. We can actually elect a real conservative.”
Additionally, a new federal Super Pac has formed to support Morrisey. PAC advisor Leonardo Alcivar pushed out a website calling Jenkins and Manchin “Two peas in a pod,” and referenced donations Jenkins made to Manchin before Jenkins switched to the Republican Party.
Kyle Kondik, Managing Editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, says this could be a vicious race next May. “It certainly seems like there could be a very, very competitive Primary,” he said on Talkline Tuesday.
Meanwhile, another less well established Republican is also in the race. Bo Copley, the laid off Mingo County coal miner who confronted Hillary Clinton during her stop in southern West Virginia last year, declared his candidacy last week.
Copley is a long shot, but recent elections have turned conventional wisdom on its ear. “One potential ray of hope for him is that the race becomes a Jenkins-Morrisey bloodbath, and sometimes when that happens a third candidate can emerge and end up winning the Primary,” Kondik said.
Jenkins, Morrisey, Copley and any other Republican who gets in the race will do so because they see Manchin as vulnerable. The state has flipped to red and Donald Trump won every county in last year’s Presidential election.
However, each of the Republican candidates must first concern himself with a contested Primary Election, and we already see signs of how tough that race is going be.