Paula Jean Swearengin

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Paula Jean Swearengin
Personal details
Born1973/1974 (age 45–46)[1]
Mullens, West Virginia, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic

Paula Jean Swearengin (born 1973/74) is an American social and environmental activist and politician from West Virginia. A member of the Democratic Party, she is associated with the progressive organizations Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress. She ran against incumbent U.S. Senator Joe Manchin in the 2018 Democratic primary but was defeated, winning 30.21% of the vote.[2] She is running for a senate seat again against Republican Shelley Moore Capito in 2020.[3]

Early life[edit]

Swearengin was born in Mullens, West Virginia, to a family of coal miners, and raised in Yadkin County, North Carolina.[4]

Political career[edit]

She is a former board member and representative of the Keepers of the Mountain Foundation, a West Virginia organization that opposed mountaintop removal mining.[5][6] Swearengin has also spoken on behalf of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and the Sierra Club at public fora and events, including EPA hearings on the Clean Power Plan.[7][8] She supported Bernie Sanders's 2016 presidential campaign.[9]

In May 2017, Swearengin announced her candidacy against Manchin in the 2018 United States Senate election in West Virginia. She was one of the first candidates Brand New Congress supported.[10][11] In May 2017, the Charleston Gazette-Mail noted that several other candidates had received financial contributions but that Swearengin had no immediately apparent ties to the coal industry.[12]

Swearengin supports a Medicare for All healthcare plan. She favors legalization of both medical and recreational cannabis.[9] She supports raising the minimum wage to $15 and implementing free public college tuition.[13]

In January 2019, the documentary Knock Down the House premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.[14] The film focuses on the primary campaigns of Swearengin, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, and Cori Bush, four progressive Democrats who ran for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections. The film was released by Netflix on May 1, 2019.[15]

Electoral history[edit]

United States Senate election in West Virginia Democratic primary, 2018[16]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Joe Manchin (incumbent) 111,589 69.8%
Democratic Paula Jean Swearengin 48,302 30.2%
Total votes 159,891 100.0%

Personal life[edit]

She is a single mother of four from Coal City, West Virginia.[4] She lost one of her grandparents and several uncles to black lung disease.[17]


  1. ^ Kamisar, Ben (June 20, 2017). "Manchin faces primary challenge from the left". The Hill. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  2. ^ "UPDATE: Manchin wins U.S. Senate primary for Democrats". WDTV. May 8, 2018. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  3. ^ "How The Women Of 'Knock Down The House' Are Still Battling To Change Politics". Bustle. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Revolt in West Virginia's Coal Country". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
  5. ^ "Meet Us". Keepers of the Mountain Foundation.
  6. ^ "Our Speakers". Keepers of the Mountain Foundation.
  7. ^ "Grassroots Groups Team Up, Head to EPA Carbon Hearings". Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. July 27, 2014.
  8. ^ Dixon, Mark (August 4, 2014). "EPA Hearing Climate Rally Highlight: Paula Swearingen". YouTube.
  9. ^ a b Holdren, Wendy (May 7, 2018). "Who is Paula Jean Swearengin?". The Montgomery Herald. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  10. ^ Foran, Clare (May 9, 2017). "West Virginia's Conservative Democrat Gets a Primary Challenger". The Atlantic.
  11. ^ Brown, Dylan (May 10, 2017). "Coal miner's daughter challenging Manchin". E&E News.
  12. ^ Zuckerman, Jake (May 17, 2017). "Energy industry fills Senate candidates' coffers in WV". Charleston Gazette-Mail.
  13. ^ Pace, Fred (April 29, 2018). "Manchin, Swearengin face off in Democrat primary for US Senate". Williamson Daily News. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  14. ^ Ryan, Patrick (January 28, 2019). "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez surprises at Sundance premiere of her emotional new documentary". USA Today. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  15. ^ Wilkinson, Alissa (April 22, 2019). "Watch: Netflix's Knock Down the House trailer is here to make politics feel a little more hopeful". Vox. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  16. ^ "West Virginia Primary Election Results". The New York Times. May 9, 2018.
  17. ^ Jean, Paula. "Paula Jean". Brand New Congress. Archived from the original on June 3, 2017. Retrieved June 16, 2017.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)

External links[edit]