GATORCHOPPIN ON ... Ojeda: Presidential Candidate or Another West Virginia Character?

Updated 26 weeks ago by David Williams, HNN Freelance Correspondent

West Virginia State Senator Richard Ojeda, a former congressional candidate who lost his bid in 2018, has announced he is running for president in 2020.  While those who voted for him view him as a valiant underdog who will fight to make sure West Virginia's struggles are addressed in the 2020 election, conservatives feel like he is another West Virginia character like Jesco White or Boone County Ninja who will only prove to be another embarrassment to the state.

Ojeda is passionate and energetic....his supporters says he will use this passion and energy to bring West Virginia's struggles to the forefront of the national political scene.  His detractors include President Trump.  Trump has called Ojeda "a total whacko" and has said he is "stone cold crazy."Ojeda claims he voted for Trump in 2016 but he has since soured on our current president.

Ojeda is certainly interesting and has a way of drawing attention.  He is a former Army paratrooper with 36 tatoos and a 300 pound bench press.  His popularity in West Virginia soared when he supported West Virginia teachers in their strike and protests.  Political magazine said "He's JFK with tattoos and a bench press."  The New York Times said, "Even more than for his politics, Mr. Ojeda is known for his big personality, with a gung-ho idea of leadership and a rousing speaking style. He is George Patton with an Appalachian twang and minus the profanity." The Los Angeles Times said, "Ojeda’s campaign is run entirely by gut. His communications director’s last job was minding the cash register at a Dollar General; his campaign manager is a long-haul truck driver. Yet this grandson of an immigrant who came here illegally — Ojeda says his grandfather helped tend the horses of Pancho Villa’s army before making his way to West Virginia to lay track in the mines — is schooling the power brokers in Washington on the ways of Appalachia."

Last December, I met with Richard Ojeda.  The state senator met with me and some of my friends - ex-Huntington Republican candidate for Mayor Steve Davis, Norm Miller of Huntington City Watch, and Johnny Ray Rice Jr. - at Johnny Rays Backwoods Gun Shop in Huntington, WV.  He knew we were all conservatives but bravely met with us anyway.  I was struck by his passion.  Although party rhetoric may may have caused differences in some of our beliefs, I truly believed he cared about West Virginia.

Our meeting was at a time when Huntington was reeling from a series oof murders and drowing in an opoid epidemic.  He offered much support to us in our struggles and very much appeared to be pro-gun despite the Democrat party line.

Now, Ojeda is shooting for higher goals than Charleston, WV.  Mr. Ojeda wants to be the President of The United States.  Many are laughing.  Many are lining up behind him. At his announcement on Monday, Ojeda said, "I think I relate to the people far more than what the President can ever relate to these people. The very people he comes down to West Virginia and stands in front of could never afford one single round of golf in some of his fancy country clubs. That's not where I stand."

Ojeda is no stranger to controversy.  In his campaign, he drew attention for supposedly calling and complaining about a man filming him driving.  The man was terminated from his job.  The man  filmed Ojeda and his signature red Jeep from the passenger seat of a furniture delivery truck as he and his co-worker drove to Huntington for a delivery. He posted the video on Friday. Later that night, Ojeda posted his own video response, where he admitted to being the one driving in Woolsey’s video.


There was also controversy concerning Ojeda reportedly receiving total disability and having his wife being paid as his caregiver although he bench presses over three hundred pounds and participates in a grueling campaign schedule.  Ojeda has never addressed that issue so it is not readily known if those  reports are true.

Ojeda was severely beaten when he was running for state senator, two days before the primary election.  Ojeda suffered eight bone fractures and three lacerations to his face, as well as exterior swelling to his head. Troopers say someone asked Ojeda to put a bumper sticker on their car, then a man  beat him with brass knuckles and tried to run him over. 

It is his fieriness and energy that worries his opponents that his quick temper may not allow him to be a suitable congressman or president...but it is that same fieriness and energy that propels his supporters to think he is the leaders to fight for them.  A presidential candidate from West Virginia is a rarity.  One would guess that Ojeda would get quickly buried in the race, but if this scrappy fighter from West Virginia can pull in the attention in the presidential race that he did in the congressional race...the world may be in for a surprise.

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