After defeating fellow incumbent U.S. Rep. David McKinley in May’s Republican primary, U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney now faces Democrat Barry Lee Wendell in November’s general election.
Mooney is running for a fifth two-year term to represent West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District — although the district looks a lot different this time around. Because of redistricting and population losses, the 2nd District now includes much of northern West Virginia, including both panhandles. (Those are also the reasons two incumbent congressmen, Mooney and McKinley, faced off in the primary.)
Mooney, 51, is one of the most right-wing members of the House and a member of the House’s “Freedom Caucus.” In January 2021, he objected to certifying electors from two states where people voted for Democrat Joe Biden, and repeatedly touted his endorsement from former President Donald Trump in the May primary. On his campaign website, he lists endorsements from the National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America and the West Virginia Citizens Defense League. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the nationwide legalization of abortion, Mooney rejoiced on social media and called it “a scientific fact that life begins at conception.”
Despite nearly eight years in the U.S. House, only one of the 47 bills Mooney has been the lead sponsor on has passed the body. That bill, the “Supporting Transparent Regulatory and Environmental Actions in Mining Act,” was passed during Mooney’s first term and sent to a Senate committee, where it died.
Mooney, who says his love of freedom is fueled by the story of his mother’s escape from communist Cuba, ran for New Hampshire’s legislature while he was a student at Dartmouth College. He spent 12 years as a Maryland state senator, and became leader of Maryland’s Republican Party. About a year later, he had moved to West Virginia and won a seven-way Republican primary to replace Shelley Moore Capito in the U.S. House.
Barry Wendell, who will mark his 73rd birthday a few days before early voting starts, is a Baltimore native and a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, according to his campaign website. He moved to West Virginia in 2012 when his husband was appointed as rabbi at Tree of Life Congregation in Morgantown, according to his campaign website.
He ran for the state House of Delegates in 2016, finishing last in an eight-person Democratic primary, and served two terms as a Morgantown city councilman after that.
Wendell’s campaign website includes a list of congressional bills Mooney has voted on or sponsored, and says, “Rest assured Barry’s views are exactly the opposite.” The bills, all of which Mooney opposed, include support for abortion rights and same-sex marriage; the massive infrastructure bill that will provide billions of federal dollars to West Virginia; and the “Inflation Reduction Act,” which among other things, allows Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for drug companies, extends health care subsidies for people on the Affordable Care Act marketplace, and provides numerous investments in clean energy projects.