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Advocacy group leader launches Senate bid, challenging Capito for GOP nomination

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The leader of an organization with anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ positions is challenging U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., in next year’s Republican primary.

Allen Whitt, the president of the Family Policy Council of West Virginia, announced late Monday his run for the Republican nomination. He appeared on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline” to discuss the decision.

“After talking with possible candidates for more than two years, I came to the conclusion that I would be the best individual to challenge the senator for those people who are unhappy with her conservative record,” Whitt said.

Capito is seeking her second term in the Senate; she served in the House of Representatives from 2001 to 2015.

Whitt has six years of experience leading the Family Policy Council of West Virginia, an organization that opposes abortion and gay marriage.

“Marriage is under attack by activists wishing to redefine the term to include the recognition of unnatural pairings other than one man and one woman,” the organization’s mission statement asserts. “West Virginia’s current marriage laws are weak and vulnerable to liberal judges wishing to subvert the will of our overwhelmingly conservative citizens. To protect natural marriage West Virginia needs an amendment to its state constitution clearly defining marriage as only between one man and one woman.”

Whitt spent Tuesday outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.; justices heard arguments related to if the 1964 Civil Rights Act also applies to LGBTQ individuals.

“That lower court ruling must be overturned or our country and our Constitution are lost. Gender Dysphoria, a mental health diagnosis, must not be elevated to a civil right,” he said.

Whitt said on “Talkline” he is more conservative than Capito, adding he would be a better representation of West Virginians’ values.

“West Virginia is far more conservative than our only Republican senator, and we deserve better,” he said.

Whitt pointed to Capito’s lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, which is 68.25% over her 18 years in Congress. Capito received 72% in 2017 and 91% in 2018. The only current West Virginia lawmaker to have a higher lifetime rating in Congress is U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., with an 88.3% rating

Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., had a lifetime average of 81% as a delegate in the state Legislature.

A portion of Whitt’s website criticizes Capito for opposing a bill in July 2017 that would have repealed the federal health care law. Capito said at the time she would not support repealing the statute without a replacement plan.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

She later voted for the failed “skinny repeal” of “Obamacare,” which would have cut funding for Planned Parenthood for a year and repealed the individual mandate requiring people to purchase health insurance.

Whitt’s website also notes Capito’s support for discussing gun legislation — notably “red flag” laws — and her stance on abortion, including not voicing support for Amendment One. Voters approved the referendum last November which stated there is nothing in the state Constitution that protects abortion rights or related funding.

Kent Gates, a spokesman for Capito’s campaign, issued a statement defending the senator’s record.

“Senator Capito is working hard doing the job West Virginians elected her to do. She is focused on providing President Trump the resources he needs to secure our border and build the wall,” he said. “She has also voted for all 152 of President Trump’s judicial nominations and two Supreme Court Justices.”

West Virginia Republican Party Chairwoman Melody Potter also stated support for Capito on Tuesday.

“She has been our leader in Washington standing up for our conservative West Virginia values. She has also been a strong supporter of President Donald Trump and his agenda to secure our border, grow our economy and put America first,” she said in a press release.

Potter mentioned Capito’s “A” rating from the National Rifle Association’s campaign arm in 2014 and 100% rating from the National Right to Life’s political action committee.

Whitt criticized Potter for supporting Capito, adding the move comes across as the party favoring the incumbent.

“Melody Potter and I are on the same side of moral issues, and we’ve been allies virtually 100% of the time,” he said on “Talkline.”

“But she is a longtime friend of the senator’s, and her reaction today was emotional and inappropriate.”

West Virginia’s House of Representatives members — David McKinley, Mooney and Miller — have endorsed Capito, as have both Republican caucuses in the state Legislature, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, Auditor J.B. McCuskey and Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt.

According to the Federal Election Commission, Capito’s campaign has more than $2 million on hand.

Whitt said he is confident he can raise the resources needed to be competitive in the primary.

“We’re going to have to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but I’m confident that we’re going to get there,” he said.

Paula Jean Swearengin, who ran against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in the 2018 election, launched her Senate campaign in August. Like in the previous election cycle, Swearengin is running as a Democrat.

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