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Richard Neece Ojeda II (; born September 25, 1970) is an American politician and retired Army Major who served as the West Virginia State Senator from the 7th district from 2016 until his resignation in January 2019. A member of the Democratic Party, he briefly ran a campaign for President of the United States in the upcoming 2020 election before dropping out on January 25, 2019.

Ojeda received national attention when he became a vocal supporter of the 2018 teachers' strike and advocated for the legalization of cannabis in West Virginia. Ojeda announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States on November 12, 2018. While Ojeda considers himself a moderate, his political views have been likened more to left-wing populism; he has come out in support of Medicare for all, legalization of cannabis, and anti-lobbyism.

Early life and education

Ojeda was born in Rochester, Minnesota, the son of Florena (Pansera) and Richard N. Ojeda. He was born into a Democratic family and he registered as a Democrat. He remarked that "back when I was in high school, being a Republican was like cursing". Ojeda's paternal grandfather was an undocumented immigrant from the Mexican state of Jalisco who came to West Virginia during the coal boom to try and make a living, and later gained citizenship. One of Ojeda's grandparents died in a mining accident after fighting in World War II. Ojeda's father was born in the United States, but moved to Mexico and lived there until the age of 8. Ojeda's father worked as a nurse anaesthetist. Ojeda also has Italian ancestry.

Ojeda graduated from Logan High School in 1988. Ojeda earned a bachelor's degree in General Education from West Virginia State University, a public, and historically black university in Institute, West Virginia. Also, Ojeda earned a master's degree in Business and Organizational Security from Webster University, a private and non-profit university in Webster Groves, Missouri.

Military service and teaching career

Ojeda said "Where I come from, when you graduate high school, there’s only three choices?dig coal, sell dope, or join the Army. And I chose the military". He served 24 years in the United States Army, starting as an enlisted soldier before going through officer training and rising to the rank of major. He earned two Bronze Stars. During his service, he spent time in South Korea, Honduras, Jordan, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Iraq, where he was attached to the 20th Engineer Brigade.

After retiring from the military, Ojeda worked as an Junior ROTC instructor at Chapmanville Regional High School from 2013 to 2017, resigning due to time constraints related to his service as State Senator, now in addition with his run for Congress. He helped start a Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps at a local high school.

He established a social services nonprofit, the Logan Empowerment Action and Development, which engaged in community cleanup, Christmas toy drives, provided meals for the needy, and raised money for shoes for kids. During this time, Ojeda also started penning letters to the editor of the Logan Banner. As a result, Ojeda was invited by Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia to the 2013 State of the Union as a guest. Ojeda decided to enter politics while listening to Sen. Manchin discuss disparities in allocation of "manufacturing hubs" to different regions of West Virginia.

Political career

Ojeda entered politics in 2014, running for Congress in West Virginia's 3rd District. He garnered 34% of the vote in the Democratic primary, losing to incumbent Nick Rahall whom Ojeda challenged because he believed Rahall was not doing enough to advance the interests of the district.

West Virginia Senate

Ojeda was assaulted at a primary campaign event on May 8, 2016, in Logan County, West Virginia. The assailant, Jonathan S. Porter, who had ties to Ojeda's opponent, received 1-5 years in prison, and a $500 fine as a part of a plea deal. Ojeda went on to win both the Democratic Primary for the 7th District of the West Virginia Senate, defeating incumbent Art Kirkendoll. In the general election, held on November 8, 2016, he defeated Republican Jordan Bridges by almost 18 points.

In the West Virginia Senate, Ojeda sponsored the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, legislation to legalize medical marijuana, which was signed into law by Governor Jim Justice on April 19, 2017.

In the Senate, he called for increases in teacher wages, arguing that low pay would lead to strikes and teachers leaving the state. In January 2018, he criticized West Virginia Governor Jim Justice's proposed 1-2% increase in teacher wages, saying it was insufficient.

Ojeda has stated "I don't think I've ever voted for a Democrat for president" and supported Donald Trump in 2016. He told Politico that he voted for Trump because he initially believed Trump would do something for West Virginians. By 2018, he expressed regret for voting for Trump, saying that "he hasn't done shit" and he is "taking care of the daggone people he's supposed to be getting rid of". Ojeda supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.

Ojeda resigned from the West Virginia Senate on January 14, 2019.

Teacher strikes

Ojeda rose to prominence for his early support of and leading role in the West Virginia teacher strikes. A month before the strike, Ojeda, in a speech on the Senate floor, called on his fellow legislators to heed the complaints and requests of teachers lest a strike be inevitable. He then introduced several bills, including ones addressing public employees' healthcare needs, raising their wages, and giving teachers tax deductions on purchased of classroom supplies. Due to his active and vocal support of the strikes, Ojeda became a beloved figurehead of the state's striking teachers and other unionists, attaining something of a "folk hero" status. He was regularly met by chants of his last name and other expressions of appreciation and commendation while traveling the state to speak out in support of the strikers (and later his Congressional bid).

Ojeda traveled to California to support the 2019 Los Angeles teachers' strike, proclaiming "Don’t make us go West Virginia on you" in an op-ed published in the Intercept.

2018 U.S. House campaign

Ojeda ran for West Virginia's 3rd congressional district, a seat which was vacated by Republican Evan Jenkins, who filed instead to run in the primary for the U.S. Senate. His campaign was staffed by regular local residents who were working on the campaign without pay, and held regular jobs while working on the campaign.

According to Ojeda, his campaign only accepted donations from individual donors and labor unions. He won the Democratic primary on May 9, 2018, defeating Shirley Love, Janice Hagerman, and Paul Davis.

While personally pro-life, Ojeda believes abortion should be legal because blocking access to abortion would disproportionately hurt the poor. He has been described as a progressive and a populist.

The web publication said that Ojeda's race was a potential bellwether due to the perceived alienation of a significant part of the electorate that supported Trump's candidacy, noting that "Ojeda is no stranger to converting Trump supporters: He won his state Senate election by 18 points, in a district Trump carried by 59."

During the campaign, Ojeda agreed to an interview for Michael Moore's documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9. Ojeda's off the cuff unpolished pronouncements subsequently appeared in the trailer for the movie; "I’m sick and tired of people telling me America is the greatest country?because we can whip your ass?", and "I don’t give a shit who you are. I’ll fight you in the damn street right now". The comments were used by Miller's campaign to bring under question Ojeda's patriotism while labeling him as unhinged. The accusations were strongly rebuked by Ojeda in a campaign ad.

As the polling began to indicate a tight race, President Trump traveled to West Virginia in October to campaign for Miller. On the stump, Trump mocked Ojeda while making a point of pronouncing Ojeda's last name with a Spanish accent.

On November 6, 2018, Ojeda was defeated in the general election by 12 points, winning 44% of the vote to Carol Miller's 56%. For Democrats, this was a 32-point improvement in performance from the previous election, where the Democrat won only 24% to the Republican's 68%.

2020 presidential campaign

In November 2018, Ojeda filed with the Federal Election Commission, declaring the formation of a Principal Campaign Committee for Richard Ojeda as a candidate for President of the United States. He resigned from the West Virginia Senate on January 9, 2019, to focus on his presidential bid. A few days after, Ojeda asked the Senate Minority Leader (a Democrat) if he could rescind his resignation, with the Senate Minority Leader telling Ojeda to talk to the Senate President (a Republican) because that is to whom he sent the resignation letter. The Republican Governor, Jim Justice, seated a lobbyist in Ojeda's vacant seat. He dropped out of the race on January 26, 2019, citing his inability to get face time with the networks, and stating one must have access to wealth and power to run for office. He broadcast his withdrawal in an hour-long Facebook live feed.

Electoral history


External links

  • Campaign website
  • Fahrenheit 11/9 partial Ojeda interview
  • IMDb profile
Source : Wikipedia


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