CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Less than two weeks after the primary election and the conclusion of the bitter race for the party’s U.S. Senate nomination, West Virginia Republican Party leaders are pushing a message of unity for the November general election.
Around 120 people attended the party’s Victory Kick Off Dinner on Saturday at the South Charleston Holiday Inn & Suites, which centered around building a message to help candidates win, most notably state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
“This is a huge year for West Virginia,” state party Chairwoman Melody Potter said. “All eyes of this nation are on the Mountain State.”
While all three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be on the ballot in November, much of the attention will be on the seat currently held by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Sabato’s Crystal Ball and the Cook Political Report rate the contest as a “toss-up,” and Republicans are hoping to use the record of President Donald Trump and the party-controlled Congress to win the contest.
“We need to support the president. We need to vote the way we say we’re going to vote and not just say things and not just vote that way. That’s where the problem is,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., told attendees.
The junior senator said in a keynote speech the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is one example of the Trump administration’s success so far, adding it can be built upon with more Republicans in the Senate. The GOP holds a majority with 51 seats.
“This is why I think it is important after these tough primaries both in your local districts but also in particular for our United States Senate candidate,” she said.
All members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation voted for the bill with the exception of Manchin.
Potter described the 2016 presidential election as an early Christmas present and said she believes West Virginians will receive a similar gift this fall.
“Christmas is going to come to West Virginia again in November, and it’s going to start out with elected Attorney General Patrick Morrisey — who is our U.S. Senate candidate — to beat Joe Manchin,” she said.
Trump attended a lunch with Senate Republicans on Tuesday. Trump told lawmakers he plans to come to West Virginia “several times” leading up to the election, adding he would consider moving to West Virginia if he ever loses an election.
“Patrick, we need you,” Capito said. “We need you to fight, we need you to fight with us and for us. And we’ll fight with you and for you as well.”
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a taped message it is important that Morrisey wins.
“Our party is in a strong position to retire Joe Manchin this November,” she said.
Morrisey said a win by Manchin would result in advancing the agenda of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who would likely become the chamber’s majority leader if Democrats win additional seats in the general election.
“How many people want to see Chuck Schumer’s liberal agenda advanced?” he asked the attendees. “Not many in this room, certainly.”
Schumer attended a West Virginia Democratic Party dinner in November, where he spoke about the party’s future and praised Manchin’s role as a conservative legislator.
Capito said before her remarks while she and Manchin work well, the president’s agenda needs to move forward.
“He and I are veterans in politics and we understand that elections are about policies and party, and we happen to be on the opposite side in this one,” she said. “He understands that.”
Morrisey survived a tough primary, in which he was attacked for his ties to the pharmaceutical industry and his past residency in New York and New Jersey. After he was declared the winner of the primary, four of his five opponents endorsed his bid.
“The one common thing that you heard about all of the candidates is that we had a common goal, and I think all of us are ready to say goodbye and retire Joe Manchin,” he said.
“I think West Virginians know that after serving for almost 30 years in public office, Joe simply has to go,” he later said.
Two of Morrisey’s previous challengers, former coal miner Bo Copley and businessman Tom Willis, attended the dinner.
The one former opponent not endorsing Morrisey is former coal executive Don Blankenship, whose campaign manager said is exploring his options after finishing third in the primary.
“We’re going to work hard to earn all of the supporters of my previous opponents, and that includes Don,” Morrisey said after the event. “We want to bring everyone together because there is a common theme: we need to defeat Joe Manchin and ensure that Chuck Schumer is not the majority leader in the U.S. Senate.”
Potter said the party will work on getting conservative voters to the polls by pushing Amendment One, the anti-abortion referendum that would add language to the state Constitution stating the document does not “secure or protect” abortion rights or related funding.
“That’s a big initiative, plus our party is a big supporter and upholder of the Second Amendment,” she told MetroNews
At the event’s conclusion, Morrisey said getting independent voters and conservative Democrats will be key for the party.
“The other side is part of the problem, part of the swamp in Washington,” he said. “I think many voters in West Virginia don’t want to stand with someone who would oppose the Trump agenda and be a strong supporter of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi (House Minority Leader of California). That’s a major difference.”
Morrisey tweeted on Friday that Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son and Trump Organization executive, will be in Charleston on June 5 for a campaign event.