Several of Donald Trump's most generous and influential donors are wading into West Virginia's increasingly nasty Senate GOP primary, according to new financial disclosures that reveal that the powerful Mercer family has donated to Rep. Evan Jenkins' Senate campaign.
Robert, Diana and Rebekah Mercer have each given Jenkins $5,400, the maximum individual contribution, even as Breitbart head Steve Bannon--who is generally very close to the Mercers—has so far appeared aligned with Jenkins' chief rival in the race, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
The race between Jenkins and Morrisey is one of several divisive Republican primaries taking shape around the country, races that are intensifying after the contentious Alabama Senate primary runoff last week.
Following the success of his preferred candidate in Alabama, Bannon and his hardline allies are ramping up their engagement in other primary races nationally, seeking to boost other insurgent candidates who embrace his more populist, nationalist views and subscribe to Trump's "America First" philosophy. The New York Times reported that the Mercers plan to be heavily involved in Bannon's challenges to the establishment.
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But in West Virginia, the Republican race to take on Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va, features two current elected officials, making it tougher for either of them to claim to be outsiders. Both are, however, competing over who is more strongly pro-Trump in a state that supports the president.
Morrisey's campaign has circulated a press release highlighting Bannon's praise for the attorney general, which was picked up in local outlets. Meanwhile, a Breitbart article, noting the support Morrisey has notched from Trump's former deputy campaign manager David Bossie, added, "this race could set up another major flashpoint in the same vein as what just happened down in Alabama."
The Mercers are part owners of Breitbart.
Jenkins filed his campaign’s latest financial disclosure report with the U.S. Secretary of the Senate on Thursday.
Ben Wieder contributed to this report.