The Wave Of Roses is a Citizens Truth series which highlights progressive candidates and organizations which challenge corporate Third Way control of the Democratic Party. This entry looks at key United States House of Representatives races for the reignited movement in the United States. This entry showcases Richard Ojeda who has a chance to flip a Republican seat in conservative West Virginia.
“If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re on the menu,” Ojeda to said to Albert Hunt of the Chicago Tribune in September. The statement highlights the intense approach of one-term state senator Richard Ojeda. The candidate for West Virginia’s 3rd United States Congressional District is a retired Army Veteran and could become the new face of a new political landscape of the mountain state.
While currently behind in recent polling, Ojeda is competing in a district which President Trump won by 49.2 percent in the 2016 general election. Republican Evan Jenkins defeated his congressional opponent by 43.9 percent during the same election. However, Ojeda and his campaign are within three to five points according to the most recent polls. His aggressive campaign style and willingness to go after corporate corruption, including the pharmaceutical industry, explains his success.
“Because I’m a real Democrat. And I believe that if the Democratic Party gets back to what the Democratic truly is, then we will be fine,” Ojeda responded to a July interview with Van Jones when asked ‘What is good about you being a Democrat?’
Ojeda’s strong rhetoric against the pharmaceutical lobbyists has also gained him favor in a state which has been ravaged by the opioid crisis, he gave the following statement on the topic during his conversation with Jones:
Well, I think we need to check big pharma. You know, last year, we lost more lives in the United States of America due to the opioid epidemic than all of the lives lost during the Vietnam war. Now, who is the enemy here? And nobody does anything because big pharma goes into the capitols and they greases legislators pockets to get their protection. It is unacceptable.
“Let me tell you something. They will never be allowed in my office,” he responded when Jones asked if he would take money from the pharmaceutical industry.
Ojeda has been featured on The Young Turks network multiple times during his campaign for the US Congress, which has played a role in increasing his popularity in progressive circles. However, for him to defeat Carol Miller on November 6th, Ojeda will need to turn out newly registered voters and non-likely voters in West Virginia.
Over the past several decades, West Virginia voters have become increasingly unhappy with the Democratic party, which is shown by decreasing registered voters identifying with the party. Ojeda’s populist message could encourage disenfranchised party members and those without a party preference to vote for him within the district — more than making up his current polling deficit.
Even if Ojeda falls short of victory in the general election, it’s likely he will remain an active player in progressive circles, especially in West Virginia.