Conservative group endorses Capito primary challenger in West Virginia Senate race

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The National Republican Liberty Caucus, which counts Tea Party-backed Sens. Rand PaulRand PaulOvernight Defense: VA chief 'deeply' regrets Disney remark; Senate fight brews over Gitmo Paul ties release of 9/11 docs to defense bill Will Ted Cruz let it go? MORE (R-Ky.), Ted CruzTed CruzTrump wins Washington state primary Overnight Cybersecurity: House to offer bill on government hacking powers Overnight Tech: Rubio, Cruz take up internet domain fight MORE (R-Texas) and Mike LeeMike LeeSenate set for showdown over women in the draft Overnight Finance: Path clears for Puerto Rico bill | GOP senator casts doubt on IRS impeachment | Senate approves .1B for Zika Overnight Tech: Trade groups press NC on bathroom law MORE (R-Utah) among its endorsements, issued its first endorsement of the 2014 cycle for McGeehan.

“Pat McGeehan has shown leadership skills badly needed in the Senate," said RLC Chairman Matt Nye in a statement. "Receiving the Republican Liberty Caucus endorsement is a testament to his commitment to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, and free enterprise."

McGeehan is running as a conservative alternative to Capito, who was the first Republican to launch a run for retiring Sen. Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerLobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner Overnight Tech: Senate panel to vote on Dem FCC commissioner MORE's (D-W.Va.) seat.

Capito has establishment backing and a considerable war chest, but she's been criticized by conservatives for her votes on the auto bailout and debt ceiling increases, among other issues. She's received a lifetime score of 50 percent from the Club for Growth, and both the Club and the Senate Conservatives Fund, another far-right group, have expressed opposition to her bid.

Neither has yet endorsed McGeehan, however, waiting to see how his candidacy develops.

West Virginia's changing political landscape — it has become increasingly red over the past decade, and voted for Republican Mitt Romney with more than 60 percent in 2012 — makes it a prime opportunity for a GOP pickup.

But some Republicans have expressed concern that a conservative challenger winning the nomination over Capito could jeopardize GOP chances at the seat, fearful of a repeat of the same scenario that happened in states like Missouri and Indiana in 2012.

McGeehan said in a statement that he's "proud" of the endorsement and would support Paul and Cruz if elected.

“I am proud to have the support from the National Republican Liberty Caucus for my campaign for U.S. Senate,” stated McGeehan. “Our country must have real leadership who will stand with Senators Paul and Cruz, to tackle the National Debt before it’s too late. I am that candidate.”

--This story has been corrected to reflect Capito's voting record.

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