West Virginia was the ultimate blue state starting with FDR’s first election in 1932. Two years earlier, the Democratic Party won the state House and held it, uninterrupted from 1930 to 2012. The state’s voters even went for Adlai Stevenson against Eisenhower in 1952, for Hubert Humphrey against Nixon in 1968, for Jimmy Carter against Reagan in 1980 and for Michael Dukakis against George H.W. Bush in 1988.
The last time a Democratic president candidate won in West Virginia, though was in when Bill Clinton beat Bob Dole in 1996. The state suddenly turned so red after that, Hillary won just 26.4% of the state’s vote in 2016. The only state that was less supportive of her was Wyoming. Democrats held the state’s two Senate seats from 1958 until Shelley Moore Capito won one of them– on Jay Rockefeller’s retirement– in 2014. Capito is the daughter of former 3-term Republican Governor Arch Moore, a corrupt sack of crap who was sentenced to 6 years in prison on extortion charges to which he plead guilty.
The party registration, though, still favors Democrats, at least on paper. In November, 2016, as Hillary and Trump faced off, Democrats outnumbered Republicans 44.74% to 31.21% (with 20.91% registered voters unaffiliated with any party). Last month, the secretary of state reported that 39.62% of registered voters are Democrats, 33.76% are Republicans and 22.81% are unaffiliated. In November Capito will fight her first reelection battle. DC pundits rate her seat “safe.” She has already raised $3,419,526.
Capito’s most serious opponent is Paula Jean Swearengin, a strong Berniecrat who is part of the West Virginia Can’t Wait movement, which seeks to rescue the state Democratic Party from the clutches of corrupt conservatives with more in common with the Top 1% than with the FDR Democrats who were so popular in West Virginia for so many decades.
I asked her to help us understand why she’s running for the Senate as a strong progressive in a state that went so strongly for Trump. More than almost any other candidate I’ve spoken to, she really and truly is… one of us.
-by Paula Jean Swearengin
As a native of Mullens, West Virginia my coal mining roots run deep. I’m a coal miner’s daughter, granddaughter, niece and stepdaughter. As a child, I was taught to have a deep sense of pride in our state. West Virginia’s hard work powered our nation through the Industrial Revolution, and kept our factories running through World War II. America was built on our coal– it was built, in part, on the backs of Appalachians.
Like so many other families in Appalachia, my family paid a steep price. I’ve lost family and friends to poverty and the healthcare crisis in Appalachia. I’ve watched as family members, neighbors and community members suffered with addiction, cancer and poverty.
When my stepfather lost his job at the coal mine, he moved our family to North Carolina as he tried to find a new line of work. A few years later I came back home to take care of my grandfather. What I saw when I came back disturbed me. I saw entire communities left in the dust when a mine shut down, small businesses drying up, miners and their children struggling with diseases brought on by the industry that we turned to for security. I saw a whole generation struggling to find reliable, safe jobs that would put enough food on the table. As a single mom of four boys, I had to do something about it.
I was driven to speak out for a brighter future for my family, my friends and my community. I went to town halls and confronted legislators for protecting corporations, instead of workers. I stood with families who were begging for clean water to flow from their taps. I rallied with teachers, healthcare providers, coal miners and other union members who were calling for fair wages, healthcare and decency.
Eventually I felt our calls for change were continuing to be ignored by our representatives. Something had to be done. That’s when I decided, in order to make change, I had to step up and fight from within. When I mounted a campaign for Senate in 2018 we rallied volunteer and support from across the state and country. We spread our message of economic diversity, healthcare and basic human rights from the Western Panhandle to the Southern coalfields and across the state.
Our race broke state records by garnering nearly 50,000 votes, the highest votes in a primary in West Virginia in 75 years.
The industrial revolution was built on the backs of coal miners, their families and our communities. I am tired of watching my state suffer after we have sacrificed so much.
West Virginia is one of the poorest and sickest states in the country. Our people have been keeping the lights for our nation for more than a century. The industrial revolution was built on the blood, sweat and tears of Appalachian laborers. While corporations have gotten wealthy off the backs of our workers and our communities, industries drained our state and left us ravaged by pollution and poverty.
I am running for 2020 to finish what I started. My first grandchild was born in January and I have to fight for his future.
Howie: Thank you for all you do to help make this a better planet. Please watch this video and see exactly why we’ve endorsed Paula Jean Swerengin to be the next Democratic Senator from West Virginia: