(NEW YORK) – Of the many primary races held on Tuesday, two resonated beyond state politics: Nebraska’s Republican primary for governor and the Republican primary for West Virginia’s 2nd congressional district – two races who together offered mixed messages about the power of an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.
ABC News projected Jim Pillen, a businessman and University of Nebraska board member, as the winner of Nebraska’s Republican gubernatorial primary, beating the Trump-endorsed candidate, the wealthy cases Charles Herbster, who has been accused of sexual assault by eight women – allegations he has denied.
The former president held a rally in Nebraska last week in support of Herbster, but nearly every establishment leader in Nebraska’s GOP, including Gov. Pete Ricketts, backed Pillen.
Nationwide, in the rare showdown between two sitting lawmakers in West Virginia, ABC News projected Trump-backed Representative Alex Mooney as the winner.
Representative David McKinley faced Mooney and three other challengers in the primary.
Trump threw his weight behind Mooney, who echoed the former president’s false claims about the 2020 election. McKinley, however, had the backing of Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.
Manchin even released an advertisement denouncing Mooney and declaring his support for McKinley.
“Alex Mooney has proven he’s all about Alex Mooney. But West Virginians know David McKinley is everything to us,” Manchin said in the announcement.
The impact of congressional redistricting was also on full display in the race.
West Virginia lost one of its three House seats, and while the two existing districts are heavily Republican, there is one less seat left for Republicans to hold, according to FiveThirtyEight’s analysis.
West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner told ABC News Live’s Diane Macedo on Monday that he doesn’t think Trump or Manchin’s endorsements will decide the race.
“He’s certainly very popular… I think people are always listening to what he has to say. But I really don’t think that’s going to be the deciding factor in this election,” Warner said of the former president. “Endorsements are important, but I think people really vote according to their conscience.”
As for Manchin’s endorsement, Warner wasn’t sure if he would have “much slack in this particular race,” which was also a test of one of President Joe Biden’s signature policies.
West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the country, and McKinley is one of 13 Republicans who voted for Biden’s infrastructure bill, which is expected to funnel $6 billion into the state. . Mooney voted against and won Trump’s endorsement when Biden signed the bill.
Greg Thomas, an in-state Republican political consultant who knows both candidates and has worked for McKinley before, was convinced that Trump’s support for Mooney could, in fact, be a tipping point.
“Trump’s personality is not something we see a lot here in West Virginia. But his issues, they are conservative issues in West Virginia and they were before Trump came along,” he said. he told ABC News.
McKinley was also hurt by Trump’s emphasis on his vote to create an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
Unsubstantiated claims about the 2020 election overshadow both races, as Herbster and Mooney pushed the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Herbster attended the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021, which preceded the attack on the US Capitol. Mooney also backed a Texas-led lawsuit to overturn election results in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin; and he opposed certification of election results in Pennsylvania and Nevada.
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