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.
Ojeda, a rousing former paratrooper walking on a populist platform, moved into the spotlight after hooking his car on the nationwide teachers’ strike. It wasn’t clear whether Ojeda’s outsider personality always served to build public confidence, and whether his Facebook abuse made him fall in love with or terrified older voters. Aside from his quirks as a candidate, his loss of a staggering 13 points to Trump-endorsed Miller showed how difficult it has become to win a blue seat in the state. West Virginia house Congressional districts Run east to west and create a three-way split that breaks up blue support posts in the far north and southwest of the state. With this demographics watered down, the possibility of ousting an incumbent Republican is out of reach.
However, the strength of the tenure changes when it comes to the Senate. A Republican hasn’t won re-election there since 1907, and Capito, the daughter of former West Virginia governor Arch Moore, could be the Senator to break the trend, despite her father’s troubled history in the state. Governor Moore survived the blowback of a federal extortion investigation in 1975 and the public outrage arising from an agreement he made that was 1 percent of what the state was originally after Buffalo Creek disaster That killed 125 and left 4,000 homeless. The contract was signed just a few days before he left office. His criminal records eventually caught up with him and he pleaded guilty to perpetrating postal fraud, tax fraud, extortion and obstruction of justice. In 1990 he was sentenced to five years in prison.
Most notable among Arch Moore’s crimes was helping coal company Maben Energy Corporation receive a $ 2 million refund from the West Virginia Black Lung Fund – an employer-funded trust for black lung miners .in exchange for a withdrawal of $ 570,000. When Moore put his hand into the Black Lung Fund, which the miners relied on to support themselves and their families, Swearengin’s father and uncle were working on the coal fields that would eventually cause their deaths. Both her grandfather and an uncle died of black lung – her father of cancer at the age of 55. Arch Moore died a free man in 2015 at the age of 91, the day after his daughter was sworn in in the U.S. Senate and two years before his grandson, Riley Moore, entered the West Virginia House of Representatives.
When Capito arrived in the Senate in 2015, she boosted her father’s legacy in the state by helping coal companies attack the Black Lung Fund again, this time targeting the coal company tax that supports the dwindling reserve. The Black Lung Benefits Act of 1978 established a government foundation to provide benefits to miners and families of miners disabled by the occupational disease. The fund is said to be backed by the excise tax levied on coal producers on every tonne of coal mined for home use, but the U.S. Treasury Department has spent billions bailing them out since its inception. ONE Study 2018 The Government Accountability Office estimates that the fund’s debt could rise to $ 15 billion by 2050. To make matters worse, the tax was once $ 1.10 for every ton of coal extracted from underground mines and $ 0.50 for every ton of coal extracted from the surface, it fell behind Expiry of the funding increase to USD 0.50 and USD 0.25. Although it was raised back to $ 1.10 levels for this year after a one-year extension by Congress, the future of the tax the coal miners oppose remains uncertain.
In March the United Mine Workers of America advocated Capito, despite their failure 28 percent service life by the AFL-CIO and its acts supporting the “right to work” legislation. The union’s stated reason: Last year Capito helped secure a bailout for the union UMWA underwater pension fund, forgotten by bankruptcies of coal companies. Companies like Patriot Coal Millions paid out in executive bonuses while the pensions of the miners who built their coal-bones kingdom remain dry.
Capito has used the billion dollar bailout and the UMWA’s desperation as a club to strike back those who suggest that Mitch McConnell is a 10-year extension of the excise tax paid for the black lung fund in the same bill to fund the UMWA , has canceled rescue operation. In the collective law passed in 2019, the 10-year extension was nowhere to be found, and Capito has refused to support Senator Manchins renewed effort to pass the life-saving extension. In short, the Black Lung Fund was traded for the bailout, which McConnell calculated was the only way to fend off a blue wave of miners’ anger.
But despite the annual pledge of $ 750 million in taxpayers’ money to the UMWA fund, sick miners still struggle to make ends meet and pay for health care. Many even fight with coal companies for what is owed them Unsuccessful lobbying for a government-supported black lung fund financed by a new energy producer tax. McConnell may have staved off the backlash of thousands of angry miners who lost their pensions, but their struggles over health care and fair compensation are far from over.
In addition to the UMWA pension fund, Capito also benefited from a much larger bailout, this time after the government intervened to bail out the banks during the 2008 financial crash. During her tenure as US representative prior to her election to the Senate, Capito sat on the House Financial Services Committee, where she was briefed on the instability of the largest American banks in the run-up to the crash. Among them was Citigroup, where her husband worked and where the Capito family owned significant shares.
Like the Charleston Gazette Mail reported In 2014, Capito reported in its “2008 Disclosure Statement” that it had sold Citigroup shares valued at $ 100,000 to $ 250,000 in three separate sales. The last sale took place on November 18, the day before Citigroup shares lost 23 percent of their value. ”
The trades not only avoided a massive loss of return; it was actually charged by the Capito family $ 50,000 more money in earnings than the median household income in West Virginia. The same year that Capito announced her vote against bailing out the bank, her husband drew three salaries from major banks: one from Morgan Stanley, one from Citigroup and one from United Bank, all of which have received multi-million dollar bailouts funded by taxpayers. When Capito and her husband were pressured to disclose the exact amount of these salaries, they refused.
W.With the recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a new variable has made the race to elect the West Virginia Senator more difficult: How Capito and Manchin will vote, should the Senate attempt to win Trump’s SCOTUS candidate before the elections in November enforce. Both Capito and Manchin voted to uphold Trump’s previous Supreme Court appointments, but with a Conservative majority of 6 to 3, a yes vote from Capito could jeopardize the ACA, which tens of thousands of Western Virgins rely on for health insurance. It could also turn back more than a century of OSH that would affect the workers represented by the AFL-CIO and UMWA. On the flip side, a no would upset the pro-Trump electoral base, which Capito is relying on to maintain her term in office.
“I’m sure the unions are very cautious at the moment about what a conservative 6-3 split would mean not just for the unions but for the working people in general.” Jason Kozlowski, labor historian and labor educator at West Virginia University, shared The nation. “From the UMWA’s point of view, however, Capito represents the values of its conservative wing. Despite her support for the right to work and her conservative stance on wages that harm other union members and workers, she has a good track record of defending miners. ”
Kozlowski says he doubts the AFL-CIO will get involved in the race as he prefers to support job-promoting candidates in West Virginia polls. Regardless of union advocates, the tremendous damage a conservative Supreme Court justice is doing to work could well support the cause of a candidate like Swearengin, whose outsider appeal appeals to voters in West Virginia.
“It was telling that Sanders won the Democratic primary with almost the same percentage as Trump won the presidential election,” Kozlowski said. “I think part of that is the outsider appeal that appeals to the people and has a history in the early 20th century of socialist candidates taking office here in the state.”
W.Although the coal industry is on the verge of total collapse, despite Trump’s promises to revive it, a perverse suicide pact has emerged in West Virginia. Miners rely on the amount they get from politicians excited about donations from declining coal companies, who in turn rely on politicians to block laws that tax their coal or force them to pay out the pensions they owe to miners . As the population continues to decline and the state plunges deeper into poverty and dysfunction, neither Capito nor Manchin are willing to be the first to admit that coal is no longer a viable option for West Virginia, or to offer a substitute for revitalizing the mountain states.
For this reason, Swearengin says partisan politics should come second after material issues: before her last attempt to challenge Republican Capito, she ran in 2018 to oust Democratic Manchin. Swearengin said The nation that their priority is to fight for the workers, regardless of the party affiliation of the person standing in their way.
“Here in West Virginia we had 93 candidates who stood up and didn’t take corporate PAC dollars with West Virginia. Can’t wait.” Forty-three won their primaries. Now we’re going to take the fight to the Senate and win. It’s about people over companies and about rejecting their dirty money, regardless of the party. ”
How The interception reported in June, West Virginia Can’t Wait formed a coalition of Democrats, Independents, Mountain Party candidates, and libertarians who pledged to “reject corporate PACs, corporate lobbyists, or executives from Big Pharma, Big Energy, or NGOs. “Paula Jean made her basic funding a core part of her campaign, comparing it to the millions of high-dollar corporate donations Capito put in her war chest. “The reason we chose Sanders in elementary school, and Trump in general, is because people are tired of the same tired politicians who kept failing us,” Swearengin said.
In this election cycle, Capito is the one second highest recipient from chemical and mining donations and the third highest recipient from for-profit prisons, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. She also took $ 180,000 from the telecommunications industry, although West Virginia ranks low in all states for high-speed Internet access.
In contrast, relying on small-dollar donations, Swearengin’s platform has prioritized Medicare for All and a two-pronged commitment to protecting active and retired miners while creating green jobs for those who have been excluded from work the bankruptcies swept the big coal companies. To date, Swearengin has won recommendations from the Brand New Congress, Working Families Party, Blue America, Flip the Senate, Save Main Street, Progressives Rising, Future Generations, 90 for 90, the Eastern Panhandle Green Coalition, and Senators Bernie Sanders and Ed Markey.
She says it is important that the people who represent West Virginia actually know and speak real West Virgins. The single mother of four waited for tables at McDonald’s and turned burgers. Most recently, she worked in a medical clearing office where she saw people unable to pay for basic health benefits, struggling under sky-high deductibles and the lack of union workers’ advocacy.
“Right now we have fewer and fewer union miners in West Virginia every day,” she said. “Patriot filed for bankruptcy, gave itself big bonuses, and then opened union-free scab mines. And then I hear Manchin and Capito talking about holding the industry accountable. If I was in Congress you’d better think I’d have raised six tons of hell over it. We used the abandoned mine land fund to pay the pensions, and that money should clean up the mines, not the difference between what the companies stole from the workers. I buried my little brother this year because of the opioid crisis. I’ve seen my friends and family, strong miners born and raised in these hills with no job, and people crying out for help. ”
Along with representatives of the Democratic Party, experts and pollsters have written about West Virginia as a continuously red state The cook’s political report All three house races and the Capito Swearengin Match give solid R ratings. But it’s a prophecy created by Democrats that weighs the political benefits of investing in the state and ultimately chooses to look away from the barbarism seeping from the rapidly darkening coalfields of West Virginia. Political polarization has gripped the state, and Trump has benefited from a power vacuum that radical Democrats could easily have grabbed. While Paula Jean’s chances of victory are wide, her determination to carry the torch of progressivism in West Virginia is stronger than ever.
“If Shelley Moore Capito thinks she can sell workers while she makes backroom deals with the coal companies that hang them up to dry, then she has plans for November.”