No one should doubt Richard Ojeda's determination or his passion. Old-timers might say he's as subtle as a chain saw. He's a fighter. He is someone who is not afraid of putting himself forward and accepting the risks that come with it. That's what West Virginia needs in the U.S. House of Representatives, and it's why The Logan Banner endorses him in the race for the 3rd District.
Ojeda is from Logan County. He was elected to the state Senate two years ago after spending several years running the ROTC program at Chapmanville Regional High School. Before that he spent 24 years in the Army. His service included three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While Ojeda has had a few legislative accomplishments in his first two years in the state Senate, he may best be known for being the first legislator to ally himself with striking teachers and championing their cause at the Capitol earlier this year. Some saw that as leadership. Some saw it as opportunism. But the teachers got the raise they were seeking, and the Republican leadership in the Legislature has promised another raise once the regular session begins in January.
Ojeda has been visible and outspoken during his campaign. His opponent, Republican Carol Miller, has run a low-key campaign that at times has been barely noticeable. Few people may know what she stands for other than supporting the legislative program of President Donald Trump and the Republican establishment. For some voters that may be enough, but those who are on the fence will want more. They will want to know how she plans to help the people in her district, but her potential constituents have heard little from her during this campaign.
If he is elected, Ojeda faces considerable hurdles in the House. For one, he may find himself as a freshman member of the minority party. That does not equate to having much influence unless he can find an obscure issue he can take the lead on and accomplish something.
The other hurdle is more local. As a Democrat, Ojeda would be perceived as a member of the party that launched a war on coal and is still fighting it. That's not good for a person who would represent several counties that rely on coal to keep their economies going. And he will be perceived in some quarters as a pawn of the Democratic leadership. Of course, the same could be said of Miller in relation to the Republican Party.
Ojeda says he supports coal. He says he is glad to see more coal trains in his part of the district this year than he saw last year. But perception can become reality, and it's a battle he will have to win if he expects to be re-elected.
If he is elected, Ojeda will have to show he stands first with the needs of his district and second with the demands of his party's leadership. A large number of voters in the 3rd District are Democrats, and they don't trust the party's national leadership, particularly Nancy Pelosi, D-California.
Ojeda has shown he can lead. He's young enough that he can build seniority and get things done if he can deliver what the 3rd District needs and be re-elected. A vote for Ojeda is a vote for the long-term good of the 3rd District, and that's why The Logan Banner endorses him in the Nov. 6 general election.