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Paula Jean Swearengin stands in solidarity with workers wearing a red bandana

Paula Jean Swearengin: Truth to Power

Paula Jean Swearengin - It's time to speak truth to power.

“Unite our fight” has become a rallying cry for the Paula Jean Swearengin campaign, but it’s important to be clear about what that means. 

It means that no matter what, we unite behind workers. No matter what, we unite behind families. No matter what we unite behind the principles that will strengthen our democracy, and protect the vulnerable.

We unite to make sure that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth. 

It’s also important to be clear about what “unite our fight” doesn’t mean. 

It does NOT mean we unite behind powerful oligarchs to cement their influence. It does NOT mean we unite behind exploitative industries to make the wealthy wealthier. It does NOT mean we unite behind corrupt power structures fighting to protect the status quo.

In fact, those are the things we must unite against: a government of the moneyed, by the moneyed, and for the moneyed. 

In an ideal world, our parties represent core sets of principles that should inform the way our government-of-the-people goes about addressing the problems our country faces.

And make no mistake, we face big issues: the most immediately urgent is the pandemic, but we also face a climate crisis, a student debt crisis, a crisis of healthcare, an addiction crisis, a foster care crisis, an unemployment crisis, crumbling infrastructure, authoritarian overreach, and more. Nationwide, about 40% of people couldn’t come up with $400 for an emergency—and that was before the pandemic hit. 

Yet these pressing issues are not the problems our government-of-the-moneyed sets about solving. 

In our state last year, a special session was called by Governor Jim Justice  in order to give $12 million dollars to a coal-fired power plant, seemingly to appease a company he owed millions of dollars to. He was subsequently rewarded with campaign contributions. By contrast  this year he refuses to call a special session to distribute COVID relief money to people who need it. Instead of feeding hungry children or addressing the issues with distance learning, our kleptocrat-in-chief set $100 million aside for “COVID-19 related highway projects,” because raising the taxes of working people in order to pay for his ill-conceived road bond was not enough.

It will never be enough, because we’re paying for roads torn up by industry. It would take  many thousands of cars to do the same damage as one fully-loaded, large truck. Lobbyists and company execs are wealthy because working people are covering their costs. That is the way the system works—the way it’s designed to work—because the execs can afford to buy politicians to write the laws that way, placing their costs on our already overburdened backs. And the more laws they buy, the worse the disparity gets, and the more the rest of us struggle.

In no state government is this kleptocratic network more deeply embedded than in West Virginia. 

In 2016, the folks in power in the “blue team” united behind a candidate for governor that did not share our principles. It was a candidate who embodied ill-gotten wealth, exploitation—and who was widely known to avoid paying his taxes, fines, and even workers. His mines had terrible safety records. But he was a billionaire, and that was all that mattered to them.

Knowing all that, the blue team leaders and even the UMWA still endorsed him [cache]. Their recommendation went far in convincing rank-and-file voters who trusted their leadership that Jim Justice would be on their side.

But Justice is a part of the kleptocratic power structure that knows no party or loyalty. Predictably, he switched parties when it seemed politically convenient for him. Also predictably, the leadership of the “blue team” picked a new millionaire—using the same campaign personnel they’d used to run Justice—one that would attack the guy they had previously backed. And the leadership of the “red team,” which had rightly attacked Justice as a deadbeat coal baron in 2016, are now gathering around to support the red-jersey-wearer in the 2020 cycle. Leadership of the UMWA has likewise backtracked on Justice.

Yet Justice has had no epiphanic shift in beliefs or principles. He’s the exact same villain they endorsed in 2016. He just switched jersey colors for the sake of political convenience. And that’s enough for those who regard politics as a team sport and whose goal is power rather than good governance.

Sadly, without apology or acknowledgement of the hypocrisy, the power structures are united around money… not principle. Campaigns like Paula Jean’s, funded without corporate PAC money, threaten the corporate sell-outs and their ability to profit at our expense. That’s why they’re backing Capito, someone with a 28% lifetime rating from the AFL-CIO.

Meanwhile, the fortunes of our state—meaning the people living here in our state, not the people running the show—continues to decline. We’re one of only two states losing population

We can’t allow these corrupt kleptocrats to continue to barter away our democracy in exchange for money and power. We must not allow our lawmakers to sell themselves to the highest bidder, as has happened with First Energy in Ohio and West Virginia, or to just sell seats directly to millionaires and billionaires as has been happening here for far too long.

“Unite our fight” must not mean that our tent is so large that working people will not be safe sleeping inside it.

Paula Jean Swearengin stands in solidarity with workers wearing a red bandana

In West Virginia, we’re familiar with how the good honest work of miners is exploited by coal barons like Jim Justice. UMWA leadership knew what it was doing in 2016 when they endorsed Justice against the interest of miners–the stories were all public—yet they didn’t heed the outcry and were burned. The outcry is being raised again in 2020 with the endorsement of Capito, McKinley, and other purchased politicians: miners deserve more than just temporary jobs in an increasingly bankrupt industry. 

And the UMWA sees how these bankruptcies are scavenging coal communities. But they’re backing the Big Bankers’ Betty, a daughter of five-time felon convicted of political corruption.

Miners deserve a future where they know their work is valued and the benefits they fought for are not in jeopardy. They deserve communities with a bright future. They deserve our full support as our economy changes, not a punch in the face by “the invisible hand” of a market that itself is being sold to the highest bidder. 

“I am exactly who this ill-advised endorsement of a sold-out career politician ignores: I am a coal miners’ daughter. My family is a UMWA family. And I will not be silent and let my people be sacrificed.” —Paula Jean Swearengin

Capito, meanwhile, is doing her part taking money from coal barons to recite corporate talking points and legislating to protect execs in companies like Alpha Natural Resources, best known for paying their executives bonuses for stealing miner pensions.

Miners deserve communities of clean air and clean water. Capito has rolled back hard-fought protections and—reciting those corporate talking points—claims it will bring back coal jobs. She knows it won’t, and frankly that’s not the aim of the legislation she pushes—the aim is to keep executives wealthy enough to continue donating to her campaign.

Miners deserve their healthcare and pensions paid for by the millionaires and billionaires who wrongly pocketed that money in the first place, because those millionaires and billionaires deserve consequences, not rewards.

We should not be legislating to protect the thieves and exploiters.  And while Capito signed her name to a bill that would secure the pensions, her solution, of course, was shifting the costs of the pensions onto communities by scavenging reclamation funds. It was a solution that protected the wealth of those who stole the pensions in the first place, and placed the costs on taxpayers. Again.

No Moore Capito. The fight in 2020–and for a long time—is not red team versus blue team. It’s the creeping oligarchy of the millionaires and billionaires against the rest of us.

CONTACT US – DONATE

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West Virginia Working Families Endorses Paula Jean Swearengin

West Virginia Working Families Party has endorsed Paula Jean Swearengin for U.S. Senate. Swearengin is challenging anti-worker incumbent Shelley Moore Capito. Capito has a 28% lifetime rating from the AFL-CIO, voting against workers nearly three-quarters of the time.

“No one who cares about families, wages, or the labor movement could support Capito, with her proven record of voting against families and unions,” said Ryan Frankenberry, Director of WV Working Families. “Paula Jean has always been about serving workers, families and communities—we’re proud to get behind her campaign,” Frankenberry said.

Swearengin’s father and grandfather were both UMWA members, so she grew up in a household with union values. “Unions are in my blood,” Swearengin said. 

That’s why, on the picket line, Swearengin has stood with WV teachers and school service personnel, with communications workers, with Tecnocap workers, and more. 

As a WV Can’t Wait pledge-signer, she’s also sworn off corporate contributions in order to put working people first—not lobbyists and billionaires.

“Paula Jean will stand up for working families: that’s why she won the West Virginia Working Families Party endorsement,” said David Graham, campaign director. “Lawmakers like Shelley Moore Capito fundamentally put themselves up for sale to the highest bidder by taking corporate donations to recite anti-community, anti-worker talking points. Paula Jean won’t sell out working families that way. It’s just not in her. She was raised better than that.”

Famously, Capito’s father was five-time felon, convicted of political corruption.

New York Times Arch Moore conviction

“Values matter to this campaign,” Graham said. 

“I’m honored to accept the endorsement of West Virginia Working Families Party,” said Swearengin. “We need people in West Virginia who’ll stand up for working folks. There aren’t enough people standing up for miners—and far too many standing up for coal lobbyists handing out cash. There aren’t enough standing up for gas and oil workers—but too many standing up for out-of-state frack executives and shareholders writing big checks to campaigns. There aren’t enough people standing up for worker safety—and way too many lining up to fill their pockets from our pain and loss. We are ready to unite our fight.”

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Bernie Endorses PJS

Bernie Sanders Endorses Paula Jean Swearengin for Senate

“I need Paula Jean in the Senate with me, and I hope the people of West Virginia will support her,” said Bernie Sanders in a statement. Sanders, who won every county in West Virginia in the 2016 West Virginia presidential primary, is endorsing Paula Jean Swearengin in her bid to win a seat in the US Senate. Bernie Endorses PJS “I’m honored that our campaign has been endorsed by Bernie Sanders,” said Paula Jean Swearengin. “In West Virginia, far too many of us don’t have any share in America’s prosperity, no matter how hard we work. And it’s not just that we don’t have broadband or cell service. A lot of us don’t have even the most basic infrastructure like maintained roads, clean running water or functioning sewer.” Like Sanders, Paula Jean supports Medicare for All and a living wage. “We believe that every state in this country should offer hardworking folks the opportunity to build a good life for themselves,“ Paula Jean explained. “But here in West Virginia, we’ve been treated as a sacrifice zone, as collateral damage, for far too long while our wealth is shipped out of our communities.” Sanders explained, “It’s hard to overestimate the power of Paula Jean becoming West Virginia’s next senator. If a strong progressive like her represented a state with one of the highest poverty rates in the nation, it would be a significant moment in our fight to transform our country so it works for all of us. Particularly in West Virginia, “sacrifice” and “corrupt politicians” is a familiar theme: “Millionaires and billionaires are not going to help middle class and working class West Virginians. WE have to help us. This is up to us. That’s why I’m running for Senate, why I’m rejecting corporate PAC money, why I’m a part of West Virginia Can’t Wait–and why I’m so honored to be endorsed by Bernie Sanders.“ Paula Jean believes that our government shouldn’t be for sale to the highest bidder. We need a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. “Paula Jean will be a senator who stands up to the political and economic establishment, and puts the working class first. I’m proud to endorse her grassroots campaign,” Sanders said. “I choose the side of working people, not millionaires,” said Paula Jean. “I choose the side of miners, not coal barons. Let’s unite our fight.”
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Endorsements roll in for West Virginia US Senate Candidate Paula Jean Swearengin in weeks leading up to primary election

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In recent weeks, Swearengin picked up endorsements from Forward Thinking Democracy, Progressive Democrats for America and a subreddit with half a million members

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COAL CITY, WV – A flurry of endorsements for West Virginia U.S. Senate candidate Paula Jean Swearengin point to the strength of her campaign heading into the June 9 primary.

In the past two weeks, Swearengin has added Progressive Democrats for America, Forward Thinking Democracy, and r/SandersforPresident, a Reddit group with more than 500,000 members, to a growing list of organizations who have thrown their support behind her run to unseat Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

“This campaign has always been about the movement for a better future,” said Swearengin, who launched a GOTV tour throughout the Mountain State on June 1. “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.”

In addition to those announced recently, organizations both local and national that have signed on to support Swearegin’s campaign include: Brand New Congress, Blue America, Flip the Senate, Save Main Street, Progressives Rising, Future Generations, Women for Bernie, Silvers for Sanders, 90 for 90 and the Eastern Panhandle Green Coalition.

Swearengin also leads the field in primary cycle fundraising, reporting more than $335,000 in the latest FEC reports, far out-pacing any primary challenger.

“Our fundraising far surpasses any of my primary opponents,” said Swearengin, “which means that even during the COVID pandemic, when time and resources are even more scarce for everyday people, citizens are stepping up and saying they are ready for change. We are going to take this fight all the way to November and beyond.” 

The West Virginia Democratic primary is slated for June 9, 2020.

Democrat Paula Jean Swearengin is a coal miner’s daughter and granddaughter who has been fighting for clean water, clean air and a diverse economy for the Appalachian community for decades. Swearengin is fighting for bold policies that diversify West Virginia’s economy including the Federal Jobs Guarantee, and the Reclaim Act that would renew abandoned coal towns and bring more jobs and small businesses to West Virginia. She supports federal funding and grants to rebuild and expand infrastructure, create statewide broadband and entice new industry to West Virginia.

For more information, email [email protected].

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