2020 Presidential Profiles

Published — January 22, 2019

9 things to know about Richard Ojeda

(Richard Ojeda/Facebook)

Former West Virginia state senator running for the presidency


UPDATE, Jan. 25, 2019: Former West Virginia State Sen. Richard Ojeda is ending his 2020 presidential bid, The Intercept reports.

An unsuccessful U.S. House campaign isn’t a typical springboard for the presidency — but former West Virginia State Sen. Richard Ojeda isn’t a typical candidate.

A decorated U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ojeda, 48, lost to Republican U.S. Rep. Carol Miller in November. But according to an analysis by The Intercept, Ojeda nevertheless swung a larger percentage of 2016 Trump voters his way than any other Democratic congressional candidate in the country.

In fact, Ojeda himself voted for Trump — unusual for a candidate running for the Democratic presidential nomination — though he says he now regrets that.

When Ojeda launched his presidential bid at the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., in November, he touted his success with Trump voters. “I turned almost 35 percent of the people that voted for Donald Trump back to voting for a Democrat,” he said.

Here’s more on Ojeda’s political and financial history:

  • While in the West Virginia Senate, Ojeda, a former teacher, became the face of the West Virginia teachers’ strike.

  • About 28 percent of the contributions to his U.S. House campaign committee during the 2018 election cycle came from donors giving $200 or less, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission data.

  • During the period leading up to the 2018 election, Ojeda spent a few hours every week calling between 25 and 100 donors who gave less than $100 to say thank you. He also gave out his cell phone number in a campaign ad.

  • Ojeda also appealed to donors nationally. When it came to contributions of $200 or more, 41 percent of the dollars came from California, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission data. He raised $2.85 million compared to $1.94 million for his opponent, U.S. Rep. Carol Miller.
  • As a U.S. House candidate, Ojeda received a coveted endorsement from the United Mine Workers of America.

  • The only income Ojeda reported receiving on his most recent state personal financial disclosure was his salary as a state legislator and his wife’s pay from a pediatric practice where she performs data entry work.

  • In 2016, shortly before his primary election, Ojeda was attacked and badly beaten. Ojeda’s assailant, a man who he had known since childhood, was sentenced to one to five years in prison.

  • On his campaign website, Ojeda has proposed having anyone elected to federal office or appointed to the Cabinet give up any assets over $1 million in net worth to a charity of their choice. “A real charity,” he wrote, “not some family foundation run by their kids.”

  • As a state senator, Ojeda introduced a bill that would require lobbyists to buy and wear body cameras while at the state Capitol, along with other restrictions.
In this Tuesday, May 15, 2018 photo, retired Army paratrooper and then-West Virginia state Sen. Richard Ojeda talks outside his congressional campaign headquarters. Ojeda, who lost his congressional race in November, resigned his state Senate seat in January 2019 and is now running for president. (AP/John Raby)

Sources: Vox.com, Federal Election Commission, the Washington Post, United Mine Workers of America, West Virginia Ethics Commission, WSAZ NewsChannel 3.

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