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Incumbent U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., faces Democratic challenger Paula Jean Swearengin and Libertarian candidate David L. Moran. 

Shelley Moore Capito (R-incumbent)

Town of residence: Charleston

Education: B.S. Duke, Masters of Education, University of Virginia

Occupation: U.S. Senator

Senator Shelley Moore Capito.jpg

Capito

What prompted you to run for reelection?

It has been the honor of my life to represent the people of West Virginia in the U.S. Senate. Over the last five years, I have traveled the state and listened to West Virginians. I have taken their concerns and needs to Washington where I have been able to increase funding for transportation projects, double West Virginians' share of federal funding to combat opioid addiction and secure critical resources to help us deal with the health and economic challenges of COVID. I have also worked with others to pass legislation that increases research funding to combat childhood cancer and Alzheimer’s as well as provide more support for caregivers. I believe my voice is a powerful voice to help the people of West Virginia, and I ask West Virginians to send me back.

What policies would you pursue to diversify West Virginia’s economy?

Prior to the economic setbacks from COVID, West Virginia’s economy was growing at a record rate due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as well as rolling back of regulations. These efforts led to a record number of West Virginians working, low unemployment rates and increasing wages. I am a strong proponent of Opportunity Zones that are part of the tax cuts legislation to provide incentives to help bring private investment into distressed areas.

To deal with the economic hardships of COVID, I supported the CARES Act that provided economic relief to families and established the Paycheck Protection Program to help our small business employees continue to receive their paychecks. I also helped pass legislation to promote STEM opportunities for young girls. I am working on legislation to move overseas PPE manufacturing back to the United States.

How would you rate the state and national response to the COVID-19 crisis? What would you do differently?

There was no way for our state or nation to be fully prepared for a public health crisis like COVID-19. President Trump was right to institute an early ban on travel from China and shut down our nation earlier this year. Congress acted quickly to pass the CARES Act that provided money for families, support for small businesses, critical funding for frontline workers and support for more testing.

Going forward, we need to increase our testing availability and support the efforts to quickly develop an effective vaccine. West Virginians have learned new ways to stay safe including social distancing and wearing a mask. We have had success and setbacks as we balance the need to reopen our economy and schools with keeping people safe and slowing the spread of the virus. We need to remain vigilant in monitoring the spread of the virus and adjust our efforts as circumstances warrant. I remain committed to doing all I can to pass another stimulus bill that responsibly meets the needs of West Virginians.

What is the most fundamental change that needs to be made in West Virginia for a more successful future?

When I came to the U.S. Senate I realized the lack of access to high-speed broadband was holding us back. Our cities, our towns and our homes did not have internet access. This is why I launched Capito Connect to connect West Virginians with each other and the world. COVID has taught us that broadband is not just important to our state’s future -- it is essential. We need it for telehealth, remote work and online learning. Over the last five plus years we have made a lot of progress. I passed legislation that enables us to have accurate mapping and secured federal funding from the FCC and USDA for expansion and telemedicine. I also worked with Facebook and others to secure private funding for broadband development. We have a lot more work to do, and I look forward to working with West Virginians to unite our communities and build a stronger West Virginia. 

Paula Jean Swearengin (D)

Town of residence: Coal City 

What prompted you to run for office?

I've been advocating for my community for years.

Paula Jean Swearengin 2020

Swearengin

I started by writing letters to my representatives, with the idea that they just hadn't heard what the problems were. Then I went to demonstrations, with the idea that they didn't understand how widespread our suffering was. Then I began organizing -- trying to connect with other community members like me -- with the idea that our reps didn't know what needed to be done to fix it.

But what I eventually realized was that they weren't operating in good faith like I was. They’d heard, they’d known, they’d understood. They just didn't care.

That's why I'm running for office. And the situation that inspired me to run has only gotten worse since the pandemic began. Gov. Jim Justice is a billionaire -- all of our congressional representatives are millionaires. They're all working for their similarly-wealthy donors, fine with staying safe in their ivory towers while the rest of us face the pandemic. Their press conferences are virtual -- they don't want to risk themselves -- but school kids, teachers and school service personnel are forced to gather in classrooms. That's just a perfect analogy for how they regard the rest of us: as expendable.

What policies would you pursue to diversify West Virginia’s economy?

We need good infrastructure, including broadband -- and also basic services like maintained roads, clean running water, and functioning sewers -- to develop and attract businesses here. We don't have it. And even worse, during the pandemic, broadband speeds have actually decreased in our state, while they've increased in other states.

But instead of working to fix the problem because it's urgent, people like Sen. Capito have simply paid lip service. I've learned to pay attention to the difference between what someone says and what someone does. Capito spent more time branding broadband efforts with her name than she's spent making efforts.

Representatives like Capito are more beholden to their millionaire donors who are exploiting our state than they are to the people.

I don't take corporate money, and the average donation to my campaign is only $25. The people come first. No more profiteering millionaires working for their friends. No Moore Capito.

How would you rate the state and national response to the COVID-19 crisis? What would you do differently?

The folks in charge are trying to make working people risk themselves to protect billionaire and millionaire bank accounts. Look at the way Jim Justice changes the risk map to con folks. He's even decided to count people like students and nursing home residents as fractions of people, all those cases counting as one. Imagine thinking that’s okay.

As a coal miner's daughter, I know what it's like to worry about family members in jobs that put their lives and health at risk. And as a single mom, I know what it’s like to worry about paying bills.

I support monthly aid for workers until the pandemic is over — and Medicare for All.

We must also pass the HEROES Act, which would provide assistance for small businesses, funding for schools, support for first responders and hazard pay for essential workers, plus unemployment support. That's been ignored on Capito’s desk for more than three months.

Instead, she tried to push a bill to provide liability protection for businesses that needlessly put workers at risk, because that’s what she understands. Disgusting.

I would've fought kicking and screaming to pass pandemic aid rather than just going on a senate break like she did. 

What is the most fundamental change that needs to be made in West Virginia for a more successful future?

Among the most important changes would be making certain the wealthy aren't permitted to privatize their profits — while socializing their costs on us. This applies broadly: Working people in struggling, boom-bust industries should not be abandoned as soon as there's less money to be made from our blood and sweat. Industries shouldn't leave us worse off than we were before -- saddled with cleanup costs, health impacts, a loss of property rights and gutted infrastructure that they beat to death, but didn’t pay a fair share to maintain. Lobbyists shouldn't be able to buy elections and officials.

Any industry we develop here in West Virginia should leave us better off, but our politicians have been sacrificing us for decades — and anyone who thinks it started with this administration has partisan blinders on.

We need to ensure a basic value: that it's not cheaper for companies to flout worker safety or community protections than it is to follow them. It should not be less expensive to risk us and pay fines, because that creates a perverse incentive. We're done being collateral damage to profit generation for immoral millionaires like Capito.