Paula Jean Swearengin Wants to Turn West Virginia Blue

Paula Jean Swearengin

It is not a difficult task to imagine the rivalry between Senator Shelley Moore Capito and Paula Jean Swearengin that took place 100 years ago between the grandfathers of both candidates in Appalachia. The two women running for the US Senate in West Virginia face each other on almost all issues, just as their fathers and grandfathers did before them.

Swearengin is descended from two generations of miners, while Capito belongs to a five-generation dynasty of West Virginia politicians. To this day, centuries of tension between the barons of the extractive industries in West Virginia and the workers who work in their mines can be seen around the necks of Swearengin and her Republican opponent: Paula Jean prefers the red headscarf Made famous by militant “redneck” coal miners, while Capito keeps appearing at committee meetings Pearls.

The race between a miner’s daughter and a political matriarch echoes the stark contradictions of a state where Bernie Sanders won the 2016 Democratic primary in every county, but Trump won the general election by an overwhelming 68 percent – the largest Trump vote every state. Despite the political polarization that has flourished since 2016, the moderate policies of the Republican Senator from West Virginia, Capito, and the Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin, are indistinguishable from one another, which brings both of them into conflict with the majority of voters. As the red hue of the state deepens and Trump’s GOP Capito continues to pull to the right, these moderate policies will change one way or another.

A Capito victory would signal the complete conquest by the Republicans of a state in which the Republicans also hold the governor’s house, the auditor’s office, and the attorney general’s seat. Democrats have made big gains in the State House, but with full Republican command of top positions in state government, Democrats face growing challenges. Ultimately, the total abandonment of the National Democrat by the state – accelerated by Trump’s election – enabled the Republicans to initiate their takeover in the first place.

With no plans for an economic stimulus to replace the dying coal industry, the National Democratic Party has written off West Virginia and refused to use its financial strength in support of progressive brands like Stephen Smith during his gubernatorial bid without concentrating serious money or organizing resources to rebuild power in the state. Democrats’ refusal to support progressives in what was once a deep blue union state ignores the 23 percent of voters registered as Independents, as well as the fact that there are still more West Virginia voters registered as Democrats as Republicans. Richard Ojeda’s loss to Carol Miller in 2018 for one of three seats in the West Virginia House of Representatives was evidence of the tough battle every Democrat, outsider or otherwise, faces to run for office in the state.



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