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Gazette-Mail editorial: Some takeaways from primary election

The contentious Republican primary for West Virginia governor pretty much turned out as late polls predicted.

According to unofficial results, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who had a narrow lead wire-to-wire in polling, secured the nomination over his closest competitor, former Delegate Moore Capito. Car dealer Chris Miller was a distant third and Secretary of State Mac Warner finished fourth.

Polling indicated that Capito, son of Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and grandson of former governor Arch Moore, could surpass Morrisey if there was a strong turnout of independent voters (the West Virginia GOP primary has been open to independents since 1988, though the state party will close primaries to all but registered Republicans beginning in 2026). Either that didn’t happen or the indicators were off.

The results show spending isn’t everything; or, at least, candidate spending isn’t. Miller’s campaign committee spent about $6.17 million on his campaign to basically move from fourth — where polls had him early on — to third. Morrisey did have significant political action committee backing. Black Bear PAC spent $3.4 million in the 2024 election cycle, according to campaign finance tracker OpenSecrets. Most of that went into ads against Miller and Capito.

Perhaps most surprising is that Gov. Jim Justice’s endorsement of Capito failed to give the candidate much of a bump, if any.

For his part, Justice, in the home stretch of his second term as governor, crushed Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., in the primary for U.S. Senate. The race was called for Justice by The Associated Press a mere 45 minutes after polls closed Tuesday night. Mooney declared that he would run for the seat (held by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who is not seeking reelection) nearly two years ago, almost immediately after he had won another term in the U.S. House. Justice long teased his candidacy but didn’t officially announce his bid for the office until late April last year.

Mooney tried to find purchase in Justice’s myriad business scandals and by dubbing the governor a liberal. It was a long shot, given Justice’s popularity and his endorsement from disgraced former president Donald Trump, who remains very popular in the Mountain State.

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