The West Virginia Republican Senate primary between pro-Trump conservative firebrand, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, and establishment favorite Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) heated up last week, when Jenkins launched a series of factually incorrect attacks against Morrisey’s wife related to her professional career.
The winner of the May 8 Republican primary will face Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who has low approval ratings with his constitutents, according to the most recent Morning Consult Poll, is considered one of the most vulnerable of the ten Democratic senators running for re-election in 2018 in a state President Trump won in 2016.
“Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who is up for re-election in a state where 58 percent of voters approved of President Donald Trump during the first quarter, now finds himself 1 point underwater — 43 percent approve, 44 percent disapprove — after a net slide of 17 points from fourth quarter, the biggest decline of any senator during that period,” the April Morning Consult poll reported.
The Cook Political Report currently rates the West Virginia Senate election as a “Toss-Up.”
Jenkins is a moderate Republican at best, with only a 56 percent Heritage Action Scorecard rating in the current session of the 115th Congress, well below the 68 percent average for all Republican members of the House of Representatives.
In contrast, Morrisey has been the most prominent and aggressively conservative state attorney general in the country, leading the way in a number of regulation-reducing lawsuits that have succeeded in turning back the overreaching federal government’s actions through statutorily unsupportable administrative actions.
At an April 3 debate, “Jenkins said the ‘Morrisey family lobbying firm’ profits off of Planned Parenthood in representing its interests before Congress,” the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.
“My wife didn’t make one penny from that group,” Morrisey shot back, according to the Gazette-Mail.
Denise Morrisey, Patrick Morrisey’s wife, is employed by Capitol Counsel, a lobbying firm based in Washington, D.C. Patrick Morrisey has no relationship with the firm. Ms. Morrisey has a 15 percent ownership interest in the firm, but other partners hold the controlling 85 percent interest. The claim by Jenkins that Capitol Counsel is the “Morrisey family lobbying firm,” therefore, is factually incorrect.
“On April 4, U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins’ campaign said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey misled voters during an April 3 candidate forum in the Eastern Panhandle by “claiming his family’s D.C. lobbying firm, Capitol Counsel, does not financially benefit from Planned Parenthood lobbying,” the West Virginia Record reported:
“Denise Henry Morrisey (Morrisey’s wife) holds the second-largest ownership stake in Capitol Counsel, a high-powered lobbying shop that has represented Planned Parenthood’s opposition to federal legislation designed to defund the organization and prohibit taxpayer-funded abortions, federal records show,” Jenkins’ campaign says. “As a managing partner at Capitol Counsel, Denise Henry Morrisey holds a 15 percent stake in the lobbying firm, according to U.S. Justice Department records, and her LinkedIn biography lists her as the firm’s “owner.”
Jenkins’ campaign also says Morrisey’s state financial disclose statement lists Capitol Counsel’s lobbying activities as contributing to more than 20 percent of Morrisey’s gross income. And that from 2015 to 2017, Planned Parenthood paid Capitol Counsel $640,000 to lobby for pro-abortion rights according to OpenSecrets.org.
“It’s no surprise that Morrisey is trying to hide the truth on how he funds his lifestyle from West Virginians, especially when he’s padding his pockets with Planned Parenthood money,” Jenkins’ campaign says.
The Morrisey campaign punched back hard against Jenkins’ attack on the candidate’s wife.
“Jenkins is lobbing a false attack at Patrick Morrisey’s wife, Denise . . . The truth is, Denise Morrisey has never lobbied on behalf of Planned Parenthood, and a public statement from her firm declares that she has never received compensation from Planned Parenthood,” the Morrisey campaign told the Record.
On Monday, “a group of women from across West Virginia sent a letter to Congressman Evan Jenkins and Don Blankenship, condemning their repeated attacks on Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s wife in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate,” according to a statement released by the Morrisey campaign.
“As women who have worked hard to build our own careers, we are extremely disappointed by your recent attacks on Patrick Morrisey’s wife – who is not currently and has never been a candidate for office,” 100 West Virginia women wrote in a letter sent to Rep. Jenkins:
To be sure, Mr. Morrisey’s positions and time in public office are fair game, but Mrs. Morrisey’s career and her political opinions should be off the table. Of course, we would expect the same basic courtesy from Mr. Morrisey vis a vis your family. It would be just as ludicrous and offensive for Mr. Morrisey to research your family members’ background, jobs, or political positions and lob attacks at them.
The Republican Party is often accused of being unfriendly towards women, and it is exactly attacks like these that push women away from our party.
As strong and independent women ourselves, we want to be judged by our own records, not by our husbands’. As mothers, we encourage our daughters and other young girls to pursue careers they are passionate about. We teach them that hard work and commitment will be rewarded, that they will be judged on their own merits. Don’t you agree?
“The most recent polling in the West Virginia Senate primary shows state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in first place,” the Washington Examiner reported last month:
The survey conducted by Osage Research, commissioned by Morrisey and first obtained by the Washington Examiner, has the attorney general in first place with 24 percent of the vote, followed closely by coal baron Don Blankenship with 22 percent, and Rep. Evan Jenkins in third with 17 percent. . .
Pollsters surveyed 500 likely Republican primary voters earlier this week, generating a result with a +/- 4.38% margin of error less than two months before election day. Interestingly, support for Morrisey and Blankenship comes throughout the state while Jenkins support is pocketed in his home district
As for the general election, Morrisey appears to be better positioned to energize voters who supported President Trump to vote to remove Manchin than Jenkins is.