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Capito to face progressive activist in West Virginia

Democrat Swearengin’s previous Senate bid was featured in Netflix doc

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito is seeking to be the first Republican senator reelected in West Virginia since 1907.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito is seeking to be the first Republican senator reelected in West Virginia since 1907. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

West Virginia Democrats on Tuesday picked a progressive activist instead of an Army veteran who voted for Donald Trump to take on Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito in November.

Capito, meanwhile, easily defeated two primary challengers Tuesday in her bid to become the first Republican senator to win reelection in West Virginia since 1907.

With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Paula Jean Swearengin was leading a three-way Democratic primary with 38 percent of the vote when The Associated Press called the race. Former state Sen. Richard Ojeda was in second with 33 percent followed by ex-South Charleston Mayor Richie Robb with 29 percent.

Swearengin ran for the state’s other Senate seat in 2018 and took 30 percent of the primary vote in falling to Democratic incumbent Joe Manchin III. Her campaign was featured in the Netflix documentary “Knock Down the House.” Ojeda, a retired Army major, was also making a repeat bid for federal office: He lost a race for the state’s 3rd District in 2018 to Republican Carol Miller and later briefly ran for president.

In a recent interview with the AP, Capito highlighted her work on improving economic and broadband development and emphasized her position on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

“I think I’ve kept a very close connection to West Virginia, which is really important to people,” she said.

Capito had $3.1 million in the bank as of May 20. Swearengin had $29,000. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the general election Solid Republican.

West Virginia was once solidly Democratic, but it gave Trump 69 percent of the vote in 2016, his highest percentage of any state. Manchin, a former governor, won a second full term in 2018 by 3 points and is one of only two remaining Democrats to hold statewide office in West Virginia.

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