With the filing deadline just over a week away, West Virginia Democrats are excited about a young recruit soon expected to announce his candidacy against freshman GOP Rep. Alex Mooney.
Cory Simpson, an administrative law attorney in the U.S. Army, is transitioning off of active military duty, and will soon be getting in the race for West Virginia's 2nd District, multiple Democratic sources confirmed to Roll Call. Simpson's family is from Charleston, W.Va., but according to his LinkedIn profile, he lives in Silver Spring, Md., where his wife is an active duty Army doctor.
In most other congressional races, Simpson's current residency could be problematic. But Mooney came from Maryland too.
Until early 2013 , he was the chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, and he faced repeated attacks for carpetbagging when he ran in the 2nd District in 2014. Mooney went a long way to try to overcome them , even adopting West Virginia University's colors as his own during the campaign.
Mooney doesn't think the carpetbagging charge will stick this time. “Now that I’m in the position doing the job,” Mooney told Roll Call last May, “the next campaign will judge me based on the job I’m doing as opposed to repeating the personal attacks from last time.”
In a strong year for Republicans, Mooney defeated former West Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Nick Casey by just three points. (Casey, who had initially considered a rematch , is not running in 2016.)
Despite that narrow victory, Mooney hasn't been included on the National Republican Congressional Committee's Patriot Program for vulnerable members. Republicans have safely carried the district at the presidential level.
Mooney, who has endorsed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for president , has been known to buck leadership. Last summer, he opposed a procedural vote on trade legislation, and after the vote, he accused leadership of retaliating against him by removing him as a co-sponsor on a bill, The Hill reported in July.
Democrats are optimistic that a competitive gubernatorial race, as well as the presidential race and sheriff races, will drive Democratic turnout.
"This is outside-the-box thinking on our part," one West Virginia Democrat said of the decision to field a young candidate without political experience. "We always had a bench. Now we don’t," the same Democrat said, reflecting on the GOP's dominance of the House of Delegates. Charleston attorney and former state Del. Mark Hunt is also running for the Democratic nomination, but Democrats are enthused about what they see as Simpson's potential fundraising prowess.
Mooney ended the 4th quarter with $263,000 in the bank. He faces at least two primary challengers: pharmacist Ken Reed, who finished second to Mooney in 2014's crowded GOP primary, and mortgage provider Marc Savitt, who ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination in Virginia's 10th District in 2014. The primary is on May 10.
The seat is rated Safe Republican by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.
Roll Call Race Ratings Map: Ratings for Every House and Senate Race in 2016 Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.