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Sen. Joe Manchin and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (Photos: Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call, Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call)

Ties to the opioid industry have emerged as a liability in West Virginia's contentious Senate race — for both Democratic incumbent Joe Manchin and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, one of the contenders in the GOP primary.

Why it matters: West Virginia has the highest opioid death rate in the U.S., making the opioid crisis deeply personal to many voters. It's also a Senate seat Republicans are hopeful about picking up. But if Morrisey is their candidate, his own opioid ties could weaken the GOP attack against Manchin.

Background:

  • Morrisey's wife lobbied Congress on opioid-related issues for Cardinal Health, the largest opioid distributor in the state, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.
  • At the same time, Morrisey's office was overseeing a lawsuit against Cardinal, accusing it of fueling the opioid epidemic. Morrisey removed himself from the case in 2013.
  • Manchin's daughter, Heather Bresch, is the CEO of Mylan Pharmaceuticals. The company faced controversy after hiking the price of the EpiPen, but Mylan also makes a fentanyl patch.
  • Mylan and its employees contributed more than $57,000 to Manchin's 2012 campaign and almost $5,000 this cycle, per the Center for Responsive Politics.

What they're saying: While the national Republican campaign committee has begun attacking Manchin for his Mylan ties, the GOP candidates are still fighting it out among themselves among themselves ahead of the May 8 primary.

  • Evan Jenkins, another Republican vying for the nomination, has hit Morrisey for his ties to the industry, accusing him of being "bought-and-paid-for by Big Pharma."
  • Morrisey's campaign has criticized Jenkins for voting for a bill that weakened the Drug Enforcement Agency's enforcement efforts against opioid abuse, saying Jenkins "fueled [the] opioid crisis while Morrisey tackled substance abuse" as attorney general.
  • Don Blankenship, the firebrand coal baron running for the GOP nomination against Morrisey and Jenkins, also released an ad attacking Jenkins on the opioid issue. "Huntington residents are not proud. Instead, they are angry, because Evan has represented them for twenty years. And Huntington is the drug abuse capitol of America," the ad says.

Between the lines: Both sides think the opioid attack will resonate with West Virginia voters.

  • Manchin's "deep ties to a controversial drugmaker who’s being sued for pushing opioids into poor communities and overcharging families for epipens... [is] his single biggest liability," said one GOP operative familiar with midterm strategy.
  • Democrats think both Morrisey and Jenkins have made each other more vulnerable to opioid attacks in the general election would be happy to reap the benefits of whatever damage the primary does to either of them.

Go deeper

Heat wave enveloping West will shatter records, spark wildfires

The sun sets behind power lines in Rosemead, California on June 14, 2021, amid an early season heatwave across much of California this week. Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

A dangerous and widespread mid-June heat wave is bringing blowtorch-like heat, skyrocketing power demand, and “critical” wildfire danger to much of the West Tuesday through this weekend.

Why it matters: The heat is building in a region that is experiencing a record drought, leading to dangerous fire weather conditions, straining electrical grids, and causing water supplies to dwindle further. The heat itself may prove deadly.

Politico's top editor leaving for NBC

Screenshot: Youtube

Politico’s top editor Carrie Budoff Brown is joining NBC in a high-level executive position at the network that includes overseeing the "Meet the Press" franchise, sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios.

Why it matters: Budoff Brown has been with Politico since its earliest days in 2007 and is admired among newsroom staff. Her departure will be a major loss to the organization.

Bored of binging: Weekly streaming releases on the rise

Expand chart
Data: Parrot Analytics; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Consumers and streamers are gravitating towards shows that are released weekly, as opposed to binge-watching shows that are released all-at-once, according to data provided exclusively to Axios from Parrot Analytics.

Why it matters: Streamers are no longer competing against traditional TV for consumers attention — they're competing against each other. Weekly releases help reduce subscriber churn.

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