A coal miner’s daughter’s populist progressive campaign in the heart of ‘Trump Country’

Insight into Paula Jean Swearengin’s run for Senate as part of a growing grassroots movement to give West Virginians ‘a fighting chance’

Paula Jean Swearengin, courtesy of “The Young Turks” YouTube channel
Paula Jean Swearengin and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in “Knock Down the House”

“We have to hold the Democratic Party accountable to being a party that serves poor people, the working class and everybody,” Swearengin said. “It’s past time we have a leader in the Senate who actually represents West Virginians for a change. We don’t even have visionaries for our future. Our incumbents are only visionaries for their own pocketbooks, and that has to change.”

In May of last year, Swearengin, as a relatively unknown activist, challenged Manchin, a career politician, in the Democratic primary for the Senate seat Manchin currently holds. In that race, Swearengin touted campaign slogans such as “The Redneck Revolution” and garnered around 30% of the Democratic primary vote — 48,805 votes — despite receiving substantially less coverage in local and national media than was awarded to Manchin and State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who participated in the race as a Republican. In the 2018 primaries, Swearengin’s underdog, grassroots campaign received more votes than Morrisey, the winner of the Republican primary, who received around 47,240 votes. Manchin went on to defeat Morrisey by about 3% in the general.

Gubernatorial candidate Stephen Smith and Paula Jean Swearengin during recent announcement regarding the populist pledge on social media

“Despite partisan politics, West Virginians are known for uniting and sticking together and taking care of each other, and we have more than proven that’s not going to end with this generation,” Swearengin said. “I’m more than excited to be a part of this growing movement of regular people stepping up, getting more involved in politics and running for office. We actually have a fighting chance in West Virginia again.”

Despite such a promising populist, progressive wave steadily gaining significant momentum and various victories throughout the country and her home state, situations for the vast majority of Americans and West Virginians are still urgent matters of life and death, Swearengin said, further exacerbating the need for immediate and substantial changes in politics and power structures throughout the country.

“I come from poverty, and I’m poor now. I come from a long line of coal miners. We need the people who know and have experienced our struggles to be in charge of our struggles,” Swearengin said. “This is a revolutionary moment, and I wish some of my mentors were alive to see it. They fought all their lives, and they fought to the death… I wish my mentors were still alive to see what’s happening; it’s what we’ve wanted to see in this state for so long. I can’t tell you how incredibly proud of my state I am right now…”

Douglas Harding can be contacted at harding26@marshall.edu.

from W.V. Contributing news editor for MU’s The Parthenon, formerly @ Herald-Dispatch. “The truth is weirder than any fiction I’ve seen,” -Hunter S. Thompson

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