WHEELING - The West Virginians for Life organization has endorsed Republican David B. McKinley in the race for West Virginia's 1st District congressional seat - although the group's national committee supported both him and his opponent, Democrat Michael Oliverio, in this year's primary election.
It might only be the middle of August, but the respective 1st District campaigns already are turning up the heat as the 2010 general election season heads into fall.
The West Virginians for Life organization is affiliated with the National Right to Life Committee, which endorsed both McKinley and Oliverio in the May 11 primary election. The national group campaigned heavily then for Oliverio over incumbent Alan Mollohan - also a pro-life candidate who had always received the support of right-to-life groups.
The National Right to Life's support of Oliverio has been cited by pundits as playing a large role in Mollohan's defeat.
The West Virginians for Life on Thursday, though, announced its support for McKinley over Oliverio in the general election race.
"We appreciate the work David McKinley has done in the past to help pass pro-life legislation to benefit the families of West Virginia," said Karen Cross, president of West Virginians for Life, in a press release. "We commend him for his commitment to life."
Cross did not return calls seeking additional comment Thursday.
McKinley's campaign said he is proud to have been endorsed by West Virginians for Life in all of his previous political campaigns, including those that spanned his 14 years in the West Virginia Legislature.
"This endorsement is especially significant because West Virginians for Life endorsed Mike Oliverio in the primary and has now left him in the dust," said Steve Cohen, spokesman for McKinley.
Oliverio's campaign hinted that more discussions could be occurring regarding pro-life endorsements.
"Mike Oliverio has a 100-percent pro-life voting record," said Randy Coleman, a spokesman for Oliverio. "We have not heard yet whether our endorsement has come through."
He said he could not elaborate further.
Oliverio, meanwhile, is asking McKinley to release both his business and personal income tax returns. The challenge is similar to one Oliverio issued during the primary campaign to Mollohan, who did not release his returns.
Cohen indicated Thursday that McKinley also isn't likely to do so.
"David McKinley will be glad to release his tax returns when voters get straight answers from Mr. Oliverio on where he really stands on Nancy Pelosi, ObamaCare and Card Check - three important issues in this election on which he has already flip-flopped," Cohen said.
Curtis Wilkerson, campaign manager for Oliverio, said Oliverio is honest and open in his actions.
"Mike Oliverio is a good and honest man, and he is consistent," Wilkerson said. "He released his tax returns to show that he is open about his financial dealings - just as he did during the primary campaign. And he asked David McKinley to do the same. In response, the McKinley campaign chooses to lie, instead of dealing with the simple request."
Oliverio's tax returns released in the spring show the joint adjusted gross income for him and his wife, Melissa, at $226,658 in 2008 and $158,230 in 2007.