By MICHAEL VIRTANEN, Associated Press
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia's Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey on Monday launched his campaign for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Joe Manchin.
In a video released before his formal announcement, Morrisey said he upholds "conservative values."
Morrisey was re-elected to a second, four-year term last year as attorney general. He is also chairman of the national Republican Attorneys General Association.
The association and Morrisey were involved in challenges to federal regulations under the Obama administration, including the plan to lower carbon emissions from power plants. Its political action committee bought almost $6.8 million in ads promoting Morrisey for a second term and attacking his opponents, outspending either one.
"We need someone who's going to take on Washington corruption and advance conservative values," he says in the new video. He promises to help repeal the Affordable Care Act, lower and reform taxes, support gun rights and help President Donald Trump "drain the swamp" in Washington.
Republican Congressman Evan Jenkins, a Huntington lawyer re-elected to a second, two-year term last year representing southern West Virginia, is also running against Manchin next year. He said he'll bring "conservative leadership."
Jenkins' campaign strategist Andy Seré said Monday that Morrisey spent his career "swimming" in the swamp with 18 years as a congressional staffer and Washington lobbyist who has had to recuse himself from some attorney general cases involving companies in which he had a financial interest. His campaign on Monday launched a website calling attention to Morrisey's political past in his native New Jersey and lobbying.
Nachama Soloveichik, spokeswoman for Morrisey's campaign, said Sere's comments are hypocritical since Jenkins is a former lobbyist, former Democrat and former supporter of Hillary Clinton.
Federal Election Commission reports show Jenkins' campaign raised more than $365,000 in the first quarter of this year and had more than $1 million on hand.
Manchin was first elected to the Senate in a special election to replace the late longtime Sen. Robert Byrd. Manchin was re-elected in 2012 to a six-year term. His federal campaign filings showed more than $1.6 million in contributions and receipts since 2013 and almost $2.17 million on hand at the end of March.
Describing himself as a pragmatist who can work with Republicans and Democrats, he has opposed Republican proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act that would remove thousands of West Virginias from expanded Medicaid.
Manchin campaign spokeswoman Jessica Tice declined to comment on Morrisey's announcement.
According to state campaign records, five other West Virginians have filed pre-candidacy notices of their plans to run for the Senate seat.
They include Republican Bo Copley, of Lenore, a miner who confronted Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton last year over her remarks about cutting coal mining jobs.  Others are Republicans Jack Newbrough of Weirton and Scott Ernst of Union and Democrats Edwin Vanover of Bluefield and Chase Henderson of Huntington.