This week, former Democratic West Virginia state Sen. Richard Ojeda announced his campaign for U.S. Senate against Republican Shelley Moore Capito, injecting some national interest into a race that has gone most of the cycle completely overlooked.
Many commenters on social media responded positively to Ojeda’s Senate run, including presidential candidate and businessman Andrew Yang:
Holy cripes on toast!
This introductory video for Richard Ojeda’s #WVSen is must-see and will leave you PUMPED.
This is a really hard Senate seat to flip but after watching this video I’m starting to wonder…
— TrumpsTaxes (@TrumpsTaxes) January 16, 2020
Time to get behind Richard Ojeda – this time to unseat Shelly Moore Capito. Follow. Share. Support or volunteer if you can. https://t.co/0l5j5jPHDA
— REDACTED Human Scum (@mrshellwinger) January 16, 2020
Always been a Richard Ojeda fan and would love to work with him when we both get to DC. Airborne. 👍🥊🇺🇸 https://t.co/jcvc8u6qWG
— Andrew Yang🧢 (@AndrewYang) January 16, 2020
Ojeda, who ran unsuccessfully for West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District in 2018 and briefly entered the presidential race, is a colorful and unconventional figure. He is not a typical Democrat — indeed, he voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, though he has since stated he regrets that decision. A former Army Major, Ojeda has campaigned on a fiery mixture of military pride and pro-labor populism.
Competing with Ojeda in the Democratic primary is Paula Jean Swearengin, a progressive activist who also challenged Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in 2018.
With or without Ojeda, the West Virginia Senate race is not expected to be competitive. Though Democrats held the seat prior to 2015, and indeed held nearly all offices in the state at the beginning of the previous decade, West Virginia has taken a sharp turn right in recent years. It is one of the states in which Trump commands the highest approval rating. Moreover, Capito is reasonably popular, and unlike other Republican senators facing long-shot Democratic challengers like Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), she isn’t terribly controversial nationwide.
Nevertheless, Ojeda, having attracted some national attention during his congressional run, could draw more money into the race, which would force Republicans to divert funds from their vulnerable incumbents like Cory Gardner in Colorado, Susan Collins in Maine, Thom Tillis in North Carolina, and Joni Ernst in Iowa.