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US Sen. Capito wins GOP primary in West Virginia

June 10, 2020 GMT
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FILE - In this May 20, 2020 file photo Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., speaks during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee oversight hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Capito is seeking her second six-year term in the Senate and faces two challengers in the Republican primary next Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (Al Drago/Pool via AP)
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FILE - In this May 20, 2020 file photo Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., speaks during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee oversight hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Capito is seeking her second six-year term in the Senate and faces two challengers in the Republican primary next Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (Al Drago/Pool via AP)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Shelley Moore Capito moved a step closer toward becoming the first West Virginia Republican to be reelected to the U.S. Senate in more than a century, easily winning her primary Tuesday night.

Capito defeated two other GOP candidates to set up a November showdown with Paula Jean Swearengin, a coal miner’s daughter and progressive Democrat lacking statewide political office experience but who is already mounting criticism of Capito.

Capito breezed past Family Policy Council of West Virginia President Allen Whitt and former craftsman Larry Butcher. Campaign finance records showed Capito raised more than $4.2 million and had $3 million cash on hand, far more than all other candidates in both parties combined.

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In a call with reporters after her victory, Capito said she’s been too busy running her campaign to take in any criticism coming from the Democratic hopefuls, though she added that she will lean hard on her record in the lead-up to the general election.

“I’m very honored to have the confidence of thousands of Republicans in the state,” she said.

Republicans made major gains when Capito won the 2014 Senate race and helped other candidates capture all the state’s U.S. House seats for the first time since 1921. Capito is West Virginia’s first female U.S. senator and the first Republican since 1959.

President Donald Trump won 68% of the state vote in 2016. Capito hopes that red wave continues this year. The state hasn’t reelected a Republican to the Senate since 1907.

November’s election will mark the second time that Capito will face another woman for a Senate seat. Capito defeated then-Secretary of State Natalie Tennant in 2014.

“It’s time that women have a true voice in Washington and all West Virginians have a true voice,” Swearengin said.

Swearengin focused her primary campaign on pushing for renewable energy technology, supporting Medicare for All and implementing universal pre-kindergarten and debt-free public colleges and trade schools.

She said Capito, the daughter of the late three-time Republican Gov. Arch A. Moore Jr., was in office “because of her daddy’s legacy.”

“For far too long, we’ve put our incumbents on a pedestal,” Swearengin said.

Swearengin defeated former state Sen. Richard Ojeda and former South Charleston Mayor Richie Robb on Tuesday.

Swearengin was featured in the 2019 Netflix documentary “Knock Down the House.” She accepted only individual donations during her campaign and outraised Ojeda by a more than 10-to-1 margin. It was the second political race for Swearengin, who received 30% of the vote in the 2018 primary against Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin.

For West Virginia’s three Republican U.S. House members, this likely will be the last race as an incumbent for one of them. The state has lost population for seven straight years, and analysts have projected the loss of one congressional seat after the 2020 census.

Rep. David McKinley was unopposed in his GOP primary in the 1st District and will face software company employee Natalie Cline of Wheeling in November. Cline defeated attorney Tom Payne in the Democratic primary.

Rep. Alex Mooney defeated physician Matthew Hahn in the GOP 2nd District primary. In November, Mooney will take on energy analyst Cathy Kunkel, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Rep. Carol Miller defeated Russell Siegel of Lewisburg in the GOP 3rd District primary. The Democratic primary among four candidates remained too close to call late Tuesday night.

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