McCuskey pivots to attorney general’s race, and Weld and Stuart say they won’t back down

Two-term state Auditor J.B. McCuskey, who was competing in a crowded field for governor, has pivoted to the attorney general’s race instead.

McCuskey said on MetroNews’ “Talkline” that he had thought the timing was right to run for governor, but he soon realized he had entered a crowded, competitive field. “I was surrounded by candidates who were going to have significantly more resources than I did,” he said.

So he concluded that his executive branch tenure and legal background would be a better fit right now in the attorney general’s race. The attorney general is West Virginia government’s top lawyer, representing state agencies in court and taking the lead on lawsuits instigated by the state.

J.B. McCuskey

McCuskey, a former delegate from Kanawha County, has served as state auditor since 2017 and has said he believes in filling no more than two terms.

“My experience as the auditor and in the legal community makes a great fit for me to continue to serve in West Virginia as the attorney general,” McCuskey, a Republican, said on “Talkline.”

The attorney general’s race already has two Republican candidates in the primary. state senators Ryan Weld and Mike Stuart.

Ryan Weld

Weld, who has been a friend and political ally with McCuskey, put out a statement saying he continues to compete and that McCuskey is scrambling.

“I have never shied away from competition or confrontation, and I welcome anyone to this race – because I’m confident that I am the most qualified candidate to be West Virginia’s next attorney general,” said Weld, R-Brooke.

“It’s clear that JB McCuskey is scrambling. After his bid to become governor failed to gain any traction whatsoever, he has abandoned that campaign and jumped into yet another statewide race. It is obvious that McCuskey is doing all he can to remain relevant until he can run for governor again in eight years. The office of attorney general is far too critical for it to be used as a stepping stone for someone’s fledgling political aspirations.”

Sen. Mike Stuart

Stuart, a former U.S. attorney serving his first term in the state Senate, also criticized McCuskey for the campaign switch. He characterized his own campaign as running to the right of the other candidates.

““The entry of another moderate in the campaign to be attorney general is no big deal. I was already running against one moderate. Now I’m simply running against two moderates. I am the only proven conservative. I am the only America First pro-Trump candidate,” Stuart stated in a release.

On social media, Stuart made reference to numbers in a recent state Chamber of Commerce poll that showed McCuskey behind others in the governor’s race.

“4% finish for Governor and AG is the consolation prize? AG is serious critical work in defense of working families from crazy liberal radicals. I’m a proven fighter with a proven record. Consolation prize? No. It’s too important,” Stuart wrote on social media.

This month’s poll by the Chamber of Commerce showed Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and House Judiciary Chairman Moore Capito, both Republicans, neck and neck for governor with about 30 percent each.

Polling of other prominent candidates in the governor’s race shows current Secretary of State Mac Warner at 9 percent, auto dealer Chris Miller at 5 percent and current Auditor J.B. McCuskey at 3 percent.

McCuskey today alluded to how competitive that field is.

“I thought that the timing was right for me to serve in the role of governor, but I got into this race and what we found is that I’m in a race with a super popular delegate who comes from a really great family here in West Virginia, a very successful businessman who also comes from a great prominent family and Patrick Morrisey, one of the most successful — if not the most successful attorney generals we’ve ever had,” he said.

He later made reference to Warner, calling him “a great Secretary of State from a truly honorable military family.”

Months before anybody goes to vote, the attorney general’s race appears wide open.

The Chamber poll showed 20 percent for Stuart, 14 percent for Weld — and 50 percent of likely Republican voters saying they aren’t yet sure who they favor.

Fundraising, a major factor in having campaign resources to sway all those undecided voters, is wide open as well.

During the most recent reporting period, when McCuskey was still running for governor, his campaign reported bringing in $120,374 in contributions. McCuskey reported reported that his campaign has brought in $648,233 overall, spending $236,247. So he has $412,082 on hand.

That put him well behind some of the other top candidates for governor but would give him more funding than the other candidates in the attorney general’s race so far.

Weld reported bringing in $101,001 during the quarterly reporting period. In the early months of the campaign, Weld has raised $109,896 overall and spent a little more than $11,000. So Weld has about $98,000 on hand.

Stuart has raised $72,000 overall and has spent $2,678, so he’s got a little more than $69,000 cash on hand.  Stuart loaned his campaign $50,000.

So today West Virginia has one less candidate for governor but one more candidate for attorney general.

“I am a strong, principled conservative who will never stop fighting for West Virginian’s freedom and prosperity,” McCuskey said in his announcement.

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