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'A Battle Cry From Appalachia': Progressive Paula Jean Swearengin Wins US Senate Primary in West Virginia

"This campaign has always been about the movement for a better future," said the victorious Democrat who ran on Medicare for All and a Green New Deal.

Paula Jean Swearengin won West Viriginia's Democratic primary race for a U.S. Senate seat on June 9, 2020.

Paula Jean Swearengin won West Viriginia's Democratic primary race for a U.S. Senate seat on June 9, 2020. (Photo: Paula Jean Swearengin/Facebook)

A coal miner's daughter and granddaughter with a progressive vision for West Virginia won the state's Democratic primary for a U.S. Senate race Tuesday and will now work to oust Republican incumbent Sen. Shelley Moore Capito in November.

"This movement is a battle cry from Appalachia and for people across this country," Paula Jean Swearengin said in a statement after her victory. "West Virginians are done waiting for politicians to do the right thing. The people of this state are ready to return our government to one of, by, and for the people."

Along with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Swearengin was featured in the 2019 Netflix documentary Knock Down the House for her unsuccessful 2018 primary challenge to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), widely considered the chamber's most conservative Democrat.

With 98% of precincts reporting, Swearengin on Tuesday earned nearly 40% of the vote, more than either former West Virginia State Sen. Richard Ojeda (33%) or attorney Richie Robb (29.1%), according to the New York Times. Moore Capito easily won the GOP primary.

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Swearengin's website says she is taking on Moore Capito "to restore economic opportunity for our entire Appalachian community, make Medicare for All a reality, and bring our progressive values to the U.S. Senate." Her platform prioritizes promoting economic diversity—including a just transition away from coal—addressing the opioid epidemic, updating the state's infrastructure, and investing in education.

"No one person or election will solve the systemic injustices that plague our society," said Swearengin. "But, together, we can stand in solidarity with the cause."

"When we unite our fight for justice, we can accomplish our goals," she added with a nod to the protests provoked by the police killing of George Floyd. "We can end systemic racism. We can guarantee healthcare as a human right. We can ensure every person has clean air to breathe and clean water to drink."

Organizations that endorsed Swearengin include Brand New Congress, Blue America, Flip the Senate, Save Main Street, Progressives Rising, Future Generations, 90 for 90, and the Eastern Panhandle Green Coalition, Progressive Democrats for America, and Forward Thinking Democracy.

Groups allied with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who suspended his second presidential campaign as a Democratic candidate in April, also backed Swearengin. Women for Bernie and Silvers for Sanders endorsed her, and People for Bernie welcomed her primary win in a pair of tweets Tuesday night:

"This campaign has always been about the movement for a better future," said Swearengin. "I am grateful to have the support of these groups and especially of the people of West Virginia. I am proud of what this campaign has accomplished so far, and I know we will defeat Capito in November."

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