Politics

Richard Ojeda, West Virginia’s Trump-voting Democrat, Announces Presidential Bid

Retired army major lost his bid for 3rd District last week

State Sen. Richard Ojeda lost his bid for the 3rd District by nearly 13 points last week. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

On the heels of his losing congressional bid in West Virginia, state Sen. Richard Ojeda has filed to run for the Democratic nomination for president.

Speaking to his supporters via Facebook Live from the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Monday afternoon, Ojeda laid out an anti-corruption platform and promised to fight for the working class.

He’s proposing limits on how much net worth federally elected officials can retain while in office and how much they should be allowed to collect in compensation after leaving public office.

“We have far too many pigs eating at the trough,” Ojeda said, with the Korean War Memorial behind him. He criticized politicians who “legislate themselves into wealth.”

Ojeda filed paperwork Sunday night with the Federal Election Commission creating a principal campaign committee with the name “Ojeda for President.” 

Ojeda voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, but he failed to win over enough Trump voters to carry West Virginia’s 3rd District last week. With the backing Trump, GOP state Del. Carol Miller defeated Ojeda by nearly 13 points in the southern West Virginia district that’s home to many of the state’s coal mines. (She could be the only new Republican woman in the next Congress.) Trump carried the district by nearly 50 points in 2016 and remains popular in the region.

A retired Army major, Ojeda made national news when he was beaten with brass knuckles days before his state Senate primary in 2016. He continued to garner national press throughout early 2017 and 2018 as an example of a Democrat who could appeal in Trump country.

Ojeda ran an unconventional campaign, but the national party eventually got behind him over the summer. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added him to its Red to Blue list for strong recruits, and he started working with national operatives like veteran Democratic pollster Jef Pollock, who was tipped off to Ojeda’s candidacy by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III.

The campaign team listed on Ojeda’s Sunday night FEC filing includes his original team from his congressional bid. Madalin Sammons, who served as communications director for Ojeda’s congressional bid, is listed as the “designated agent” for the presidential committee. Steven Hall is listed as the campaign manager for the presidential committee. He’s Ojeda’s brother-in-law and also served as finance chairman for his congressional campaign.

Ojeda’s new presidential website details the first pillar of his platform. He’s proposing that federally elected public officials or cabinet members donate to charity any net worth exceeding $1 million. After retirement from public office, these officials would be allowed to collect a $130,000 pension, plus any additional compensation for a total of up to $250,000 per year.

“If you really want to sell your country out to big pharma, all you can get in return for your soul is $120,000,” the website states. 

Three additional pillars of his platform are forthcoming. 

Watch: Now That That’s Over (Mostly) Roll Call Looks Ahead to 2020

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