In addition to Ben Sasse’s landslide GOP primary win in Nebraksa, tea-party-backed candidates flexed their muscles in two House races — winning a key primary and almost defeating a longtime congressman.
In West Vriginia, former Young America’s Foundation executive Alex Mooney easily won the Republican primary for West Virginia’s second congressional district, which stretches from the Washington D.C. suburbs to the state capital of Charleston. In a seven-candidate field, Mooney won a surprising 35 percent, beating wealthy pharmacist Ken Reed who had 22 percent and establishment Republican state legislator Charlotte Lane who won 21 percent.
Mooney’s biggest obstacle was convincing voters he wasn’t a carpetbagger, having moved to the state only last year after serving as a state senator for more than a decade in neighboring Maryland. But he tackled the issue directly by running an ad that said he came to the state “to live in freedom and he’ll fight Obama to preserve it.”
Mooney, the son of a refugee from Communist Cuba, is the favorite to hold the seat for Republicans in November given that the seat gave Barack Obama only 38 percent of its votes in 2012. A man of impeccable conservative credentials with a track record as a fighter, Mooney was praised by Drew Ryun of the Tea Party’s Madison Project as someone who will “always fight for West Virginia’s conservative values, even if that means bucking party leadership.”
Meanwhile, in Nebraska, eight-term GOP congressman Lee Terry of Omaha was almost upset by a tea-party Republican who raised only $45,000 and was outspent by Terry by 20 to 1. Businessman Dan Frei won over 47 percent of the vote against Terry, whom he criticized for not demonstrating conservative leadership. The result will certainly be noted by House majority leader Eric Cantor, who faces a June 10 primary challenge from David Brat, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College. Last week, Brat’s boisterous conservative supporters ousted a Cantor ally as Seventh District Republican Committee chairman in favor of one of their own.
Brat, who claims Cantor isn’t a true conservative, is speaking this morning at Grover Norquist’s weekly Washington meeting and then making the rounds of conservative groups. Cantor remains a prohibitive favorite, but Terry’s near-death experience will certainly make this a race to watch.