The two women and one man seeking to represent West Virginia in the U.S. Senate for the next six years agree on what the issues are, but they differ drastically when it comes to how they think the nation’s problems are best solved.
Incumbent Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, of Charleston, is running her first reelection campaign for Senate, marking her 24th year in politics.
Running against her are Paula Jean Swearengin, a Democrat from Mullens, whose first appearance in state politics came in 2018 when she lost the Democratic Party primary race for Senate to Sen. Joe Manchin, and Libertarian David Moran, of Preston County, who ran for governor in 2016.
Swearengin, an office manager and longtime activist, said she would be honored to be a public servant, saying Capito’s constituents often have to protest outside her office and risk being arrested to get the senator’s attention, and even then, Capito doesn’t legislate in the interest of the most vulnerable West Virginians.
“This is about us,” Swearengin said. “We have had so many candidates on a national level and a federal level because we are underserved. This country girl does not want to go to D.C., but this is about survival for us, and who better to serve us than us.”
Moran has worked as a sheep and alpaca farmer in Preston County since he retired as president of the National Technology Transfer Center at Wheeling University.
He said the views of third-party candidates provide a necessary perspective in an increasingly politically polarized country.
“The third-party candidates are usually the ones who have something to say,” Moran said. “The contentious relationship with the Democrat and Republican parties in this country is just horrendous, and it certainly isn’t doing us any great service.”
Capito said she started in West Virginia politics during a time when Democrats held the majority of public offices, and said her work has continued as the state has come to embrace conservative Republican values and political candidates.
Capito was the first woman West Virginia sent to the U.S. Senate, when she was elected in 2014.
“When I ran for the Senate, I asked to have a bigger voice, a more powerful voice, for West Virginia. And I think I’ve done that — because I’ve delivered,” Capito said. “I think I delivered what West Virginians asked me to do. I want to go back and continue with the work that I started and also begin new avenues of assistance.”
Capito, Moran and Swearengin all say they accept and understand the science that indicates climate change is happening and that there are steps humans can take to mitigate the effects of it. However, they differ on what steps would be best for the environment and best for West Virginians.
Swearengin said she supports the Green New Deal, a congressional resolution with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating high-paying jobs, ensuring clean air, clean water and healthy food as basic human rights and ending all forms of oppression, as spelled out in a 2019 New York Times article.
Swearengin said she supports the resolution because it, in part, says it’s the duty of government to provide economic development and job training to communities that rely on jobs in fossil fuels. She also said West Virginia’s congressional delegation should pressure the president to enter into international agreements and efforts to curb carbon emissions.
“That seems to be dividing language, especially here in West Virginia,” Swearengin said. “The Green New Deal creates jobs, long-term jobs, sustainable jobs. I feel a lot of West Virginians, especially, can look to this as a whole and realize we have been divided against each other for basic human rights, and we shouldn’t listen to every little thing we see on Facebook. We should dig inside our moral compass and be the West Virginians we are.”
Moran, a self-described tree hugger, said climate change is an issue that “can’t simply have money thrown at it to go away.”
“As a senator, you would hear me continuously talking about the importance of the responsibility of us as a people to this planet,” Moran said. “That is not something you can legislate. It’s something that has to be built into our educational system and our cultural values.”
Capito said she does not support the Green New Deal. She says it’s too extreme and would be harmful for West Virginians, who she says suffered economically from environmental protection guidelines established during the Obama administration.
Capito said she supports more targeted efforts, such as tax deductions for carbon capture and finding ways to better carry and store captured carbon, and putting more money into the Federal Emergency Management Agency to mitigate the effects of harsher weather caused by climate change.
“I can’t support a Green New Deal, because I think it would make unemployment in West Virginia skyrocket, number one,” Capito said. “It would really harm people in poverty who have to pay their electric bill, who have to put gas in their car, who are on the edge anyway of trying to figure out how to manage.
“I mean, the Green New Deal is just so far out there that there’s no way I could support that.”