(NEW YORK) — Of the numerous primary races held Tuesday, two resonated beyond state politics: the Republican gubernatorial primary in Nebraska and the 2nd Congressional District Republican primary in West Virginia — two races that together offered mixed messages about the power of an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.
ABC News projected Jim Pillen, a businessman and member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, as the winner in the Nebraska Republican gubernatorial primary, beating Trump’s endorsed candidate, wealthy businessman 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 almost all of Nebraska’s GOP establishment leaders, including Gov. Pete Ricketts, supported Pillen.
Across the country, in the rare matchup between two incumbent lawmakers in West Virginia, ABC News projected Trump-backed Rep. Alex Mooney as the winner.
Rep. David McKinley faced off against Mooney and three other challengers in the primary.
Trump put his weight behind Mooney, who has echoed the former president’s false claims about the 2020 election. McKinley, however, had the support of Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.
Manchin even released an ad 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 all about us,” Manchin said in the ad.
The impact of congressional redistricting was also on full display in the race.
West Virginia lost one of its three House seats, and while both existing districts lean strongly Republican, there is one fewer seat for Republicans to hold onto, according to analysis from FiveThirtyEight.
West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner told ABC News Live’s Diane Macedo on Monday that he didn’t think the Trump or Manchin endorsements would decide the race.
“He’s certainly very popular… I think people still are tuned in to what he has to say. But I really don’t think that’s going to be the decisive factor in this election,” Warner said of the former president. “Endorsements are important, but I think people really vote their conscience.”
As for Manchin’s endorsement, Warner was unsure of whether it would have “much play at all in this in this particular race,” which was also a test of one of President Joe Biden’s signature policies.
West Virginia is one of the nation’s poorest states, and McKinley is one of 13 Republicans who voted for Biden’s infrastructure bill that is expected to funnel $6 billion to the state. Mooney voted against it and won Trump’s endorsement when Biden signed the bill into law.
Greg Thomas, a Republican political consultant in the state who knows both candidates and once worked for McKinley, was of the belief that Trump’s support for Mooney could, in fact, be a tipping point.
“Trump’s personality isn’t something that we see a lot here in West Virginia. But his issues, these are West Virginia conservative issues and have been before Trump came along,” he told ABC News.
McKinley was also been hurt by Trump’s focus on his vote to establish an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
Unfounded claims about the 2020 election overshadow the two races, as both Herbster and Mooney have pushed the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Herbster attended the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, which preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Mooney has also supported a Texas-led lawsuit seeking to throw out the election results in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin; and he objected to certifying the election results in Pennsylvania and Nevada.
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