WEST VIRGINIA 03 (R -- OPEN) | WV-3

Populism Fuels Dem State Sen’s Campaign

Army veteran Richard Ojeda is contending for a district that heavily supported Trump.

Drew Gerber
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Drew Gerber
March 2, 2018, 10:16 a.m.

State Sen. Richard Ojeda (D) “has made his mark on the volatile politics in this state with a stunning suddenness. Though he is a Democrat in a legislature in which his party is outnumbered almost 2-to-1, he spearheaded in his freshman session the passage of a bill legalizing medical marijuana. Then, this January, he stood on the Senate floor and argued in fiery speeches that energy companies should pony up more taxes so teachers could get better benefits and pay. A strike, he warned, was not out of the question. A month later, teachers from all 55 counties walked off the job—a first in the history of the state—instantly making Ojeda the father of one of the region’s largest labor actions of the past 30 years.

“Here is Ojeda, a pro-labor, twang-talking, plainspoken populist, scrambling the state’s recent rightward shift by harkening back to a deeper, more radical vein of its rich political history. … He’s not on” Rep. Seth Moulton’s (D-MA) “tally of veterans he has endorsed, and he’s not on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s ‘Red to Blue’ list, either. He’s been a mostly limited fundraiser, too, in part because he takes no money from anybody except individual donors and labor unions. There is next to no standard reason to think Ojeda could win—except for the visceral evidence that was swirling around us.

“His campaign manager is an over-the-road truck driver, his communications director is a single mother who lives in Mingo County with her parents and her 5-year-old son, and most of his unlikely, ragtag campaign staff isn’t being paid—and yet, fresh internal polling Ojeda shared with me shows he’s not only projected to win the race, but he’s beating his two likeliest GOP opponents among GOP voters. ‘I’m kicking the shit out of the Republicans,’ he said.”

Ojeda, who regrets his vote for President Trump: “Donald Trump … made everybody excited because he said shit nobody else has ever said. But the difference is, Donald Trump wins, and he ain’t done jackshit to help us. Now let me tell you something about Ojeda. Ojeda won, and I’m telling you right now: I guarantee you there’s not one single freshman damn Democrat, there’s not one freshman friggin’ senator that’s ever made more damn noise than I have and has done more than what I’ve done.” (Politico)

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