Democratic Senate race heats up in Republican West Virginia

 Progressive candidates aim to flip a 'solid Republican' Senate seat. (Source: Gray DC)
Progressive candidates aim to flip a 'solid Republican' Senate seat. (Source: Gray DC) (GRAYDC)
Published: Jun. 9, 2020 at 3:36 PM EDT
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A couple of coal-country progressives plan to flip a U.S. Senate seat from red to blue. The right to stay in the race is on the line Tuesday night.

National elections experts predict Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) will cruise to re-election this November. But, her challengers on the left see a path to victory running to the political left, rather than through the moderate middle.

The first step: Tuesday's Democratic primary.

Richard Ojeda fell short in his brief bid for the presidency, and his run for Congress two years ago. But, the former Army major sayid his unapologetic, hard-nosed style is exactly what West Virginia needs in Washington.

“I’m the guy that people go, ‘maybe we need to try to do some things with him so he don’t punch us in the nose,” when asked whether he could accomplish his goals if he wins election to a Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

Top of the former state senator’s D.C. agenda: expanding rights for workers, and new limits on lobbying, career politicians, and money in politics.

“We can fix a lot of the damage that’s been done over the past four to six years,” he said of the need for new lawmakers and for Democrats to take control of Congress.

“It’s time that we have a voice and a seat at the table in Washington D.C.,” Paula Jean Swearengin said when asked why she entered the race.

The coalminer’s daughter is an activist and unsuccessfully challenged Democratic Senator Joe Manchin in 2018’s primary. Swearengin builds her platform on promises to help create a West Virginia economy that runs on more than coal, healthcare-for-all, and combating the opiate epidemic.

“We just have to make sure we have visionaries for our future instead of visionaries for our demise," she said when asked whether her agenda would stall in Congress.

Former Charleston Mayor Richie Robb is also in the running, but isn’t as well-known statewide.

Both Swearengin and Ojeda said they’ll get behind whoever wins Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

A West Virginia Republican hasn’t been re-elected to the U.S. Senate since 1906.

But while history may be on the Democratic challengers' side, it likely doesn't reflect political reality. The state has been growing more and more Republican over years and decades.

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