Patrick Morrisey Wins GOP Primary In Race For West Virginia Governor

The crowded contest for the state’s highest office was full of Republicans pushing anti-trans rhetoric and denialism about Biden's win in the 2020 election.
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West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has won the GOP primary for governor of the Mountain State in a race full of Republicans pushing anti-transgender rhetoric and denialism about Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.

Morrisey beat out five other GOP contenders in the crowded contest for the state’s highest office and is now set to face the sole Democratic candidate, Steve Williams, in November. West Virginia was once a Democratic stronghold, but over the past decade has pivoted further rightward. Donald Trump won the state by more than 38 points in the last presidential election.

The future of LGBTQ+ rights in West Virginia hangs in the balance, after anti-trans rhetoric took center stage in the GOP primary.

In the weeks leading up to the election, Morrisey, former state Delegate Moore Capito and auto dealer Chris Miller ran a series of advertisements lambasting their opponents in the race for not taking harsher action to restrict transgender rights.

Under outgoing Republican Gov. Jim Justice, the state has enacted laws restricting transgender children’s participation in sports and limiting minors’ access to gender-affirming care. (Justice, who has been endorsed by Trump in West Virginia’s race for U.S. Senate, won his bid to replace moderate Democrat Joe Manchin — currently the only Democrat to hold statewide office.)

During this year’s legislative session, Republicans tried to pass even more restrictive laws that would have upended legal recognition of transgender identity and further gutted minors’ access to gender-affirming care, which is currently allowed in the state for those diagnosed with “severe gender dysphoria.”

“This session was the worst legislative session that I have ever had to work,” Ash Orr, a transgender and reproductive rights organizer in West Virginia, told The Hill. “But I try to remind myself and others to look at how far we’ve come.”

However, the end of the legislative session in March came with some notable wins for LGBTQ+ advocates. State lawmakers failed to pass nearly all anti-LGBTQ+ bills in West Virginia, and advocates saw this as a sign that the moral panic around LGBTQ+ people may have been starting to break.

But the anti-trans rhetoric seen during the GOP primary has them worried that this trend may have been short-lived.

Republican candidates for governor and Congress have additionally voiced a range of opinions — from skepticism to flat-out denialism — about the results of the 2020 presidential election. Mac Warner, another gubernatorial candidate, has said that he, like Trump, “firmly” believes that election was stolen, while Morrisey has argued that there were “significant irregularities” and “very, very severe issues” around it.

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