Paula Jean Swearengin

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Paula Jean Swearengin
Personal details
Born (1974-06-13) June 13, 1974 (age 49)
Mullens, West Virginia, U.S.
Political partyIndependent (2022–present)
Other political
Democratic (before 2021)
People's (2021–2022)

Paula Jean Swearengin (born June 13, 1974) is an American activist and politician who was the Democratic nominee in the 2020 U.S. Senate election in West Virginia,[1] and a candidate in the Democratic primary for the state's other Senate seat in 2018.[2][3] Her 2018 campaign was one of four campaigns featured in the 2019 documentary Knock Down the House.[4]

Swearengin lost the 2020 election to Republican incumbent Shelley Moore Capito by more than 40 percentage points,[5] and the 2018 primary to incumbent Joe Manchin. She left the Democratic Party in 2021 and joined the Movement for a People's Party.[6] She left the organization in 2022.[7]

Early life[edit]

Swearengin was born in Mullens, West Virginia to a family of coal miners historically affiliated with the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).[8] One of her grandfathers served in the Korean War, and her father in the Vietnam War. She lost her grandfather and several uncles to black lung disease contracted in the coal mines. Her father died of cancer at age 52.[9]


Swearengin was professionally employed as an office manager. She has advocated for economic diversity, clean air and clean water in her community, and all of West Virginia, since 2001. She is a former board member and representative of the Keepers of the Mountain Foundation, a West Virginia organization that opposed mountaintop removal mining.[10][11] She 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.[12][13] She supported Bernie Sanders's 2016 presidential campaign.[14] On February 20, 2022, Swearengin left the People's Party.[15]

2018 election[edit]

In May 2017, Swearengin announced her candidacy against Joe Manchin in the U.S. Senate election in West Virginia. She was one of the first candidates supported by Brand New Congress.[16][17] Swearengin refused all PAC donations in the election and received no contributions over $200.[18]

Swearengin's campaign was highlighted in the 2019 documentary Knock Down the House alongside the primary campaigns of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, and Cori Bush, three other Democrats who ran for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections, with Ocasio-Cortez winning her election. The film premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.[4] and was released on Netflix on May 1, 2019.[19]


Swearengin supports a Medicare for All healthcare plan. She favors legalization of both medical and recreational cannabis.[14] She also supports raising the minimum wage to $15 and free public college tuition.[20] She has spoken out against the influence of pharmaceutical companies in addressing the opioid epidemic and argues that long-term treatment centers and a harm reduction model both have roles to play in addressing the epidemic.[21]

2020 election[edit]

In June 2019, Swearengin announced her campaign for Senate against Republican incumbent Shelley Moore Capito. She had two opponents in the June 9 Democratic primary, Richie Robb and Richard Ojeda. Swearengin won with 38% of the vote to Ojeda's 33% and Robb's 29%.[22] In the November 3 general election she faced Capito, who has been a Senator since 2015,[23] and unaffiliated candidate Franklin Riley, losing to the former.[24]

Swearengin joined her three other Knock Down the House co-stars in endorsing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.[25] Sanders endorsed Swearengin's campaign for Senate on July 8, 2020.[26] In the November general election, Capito defeated Swearengin.[27] Swearengin left the Democratic party less than one year later, writing in July 2021 of the West Virginia Democratic Party and the DNC that "I can't support racism or them ignoring Appalachian children dying & suffering."[6]

Electoral history[edit]

United States Senate election in West Virginia Democratic primary, 2018[28]
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%
United States Senate election in West Virginia Democratic primary, 2020[29]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Paula Jean Swearengin 72,292 38.39%
Democratic Richard N. Ojeda II 61,954 32.90%
Democratic Richie Robb 54,048 28.70%
Total votes 188,294 100.00%
United States Senate election in West Virginia, 2020
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Shelley Moore Capito (incumbent) 547,454 70.28%
Democratic Paula Jean Swearengin 210,309 27.00%
Libertarian David Moran 21,155 2.72%
Total votes 778,918 100.00%

Personal life[edit]

Swearengin is a single mother. She has four sons and one grandson. She lives in Coal City, West Virginia.[30]


  1. ^ "Paula Jean Swearengin wins Democratic Senate primary in West Virginia". June 9, 2020. Archived from the original on June 14, 2020. Retrieved June 10, 2020.
  2. ^ "UPDATE: Manchin wins U.S. Senate primary for Democrats". WDTV. May 8, 2018. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  3. ^ "Paula Jean Swearengin: U.S. Senate Nominee for West Virginia".
  4. ^ a b Ryan, Patrick (January 28, 2019). "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez surprises at Sundance premiere of her emotional new documentary". USA Today. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  5. ^ "West Virginia's Shelley Moore Capito defends her Senate seat from Democrat Paula Jean Swearengin". Business Insider.
  6. ^ a b "Former U.S. Senate candidate from West Virginia leaving democratic party". WDTV. July 20, 2021. Retrieved August 7, 2021.
  7. ^ Swearengin, Paula Jean [@paulajean2020] (February 20, 2022). "After several questions, I will confirm @peoplesparty_US is purging staff, board members & volunteers with open serious grievances against Nick Brana. This is happening after months of retaliation. Obviously I withdraw my support" (Tweet). Retrieved February 22, 2022 – via Twitter.
  8. ^ Jean, Paula. "Paula Jean". Brand New Congress. Archived from the original on June 3, 2017. Retrieved June 16, 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  9. ^ Farrish, Jessica (January 18, 2020). "The unapologetic, progressive coal miner's daughter taking another run for U.S. Senate". Beckley Register-Herald. Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  10. ^ "Meet Us". Keepers of the Mountain Foundation.
  11. ^ "Our Speakers". Keepers of the Mountain Foundation.
  12. ^ "Grassroots Groups Team Up, Head to EPA Carbon Hearings". Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. July 27, 2014.
  13. ^ Dixon, Mark (August 4, 2014). "EPA Hearing Climate Rally Highlight: Paula Swearingen". YouTube.
  14. ^ a b Holdren, Wendy (May 7, 2018). "Who is Paula Jean Swearengin?". The Montgomery Herald. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  15. ^ Swearengin, Paula Jean [@paulajean2020] (February 20, 2022). "After several questions, I will confirm @peoplesparty_US is purging staff, board members & volunteers with open serious grievances against Nick Brana. This is happening after months of retaliation. Obviously I withdraw my support" (Tweet). Retrieved February 22, 2022 – via Twitter.
  16. ^ Foran, Clare (May 9, 2017). "West Virginia's Conservative Democrat Gets a Primary Challenger". The Atlantic.
  17. ^ Brown, Dylan (May 10, 2017). "Coal miner's daughter challenging Manchin". E&E News.
  18. ^ "Paula Swearengin 2018 Summary | OpenSecrets". Retrieved August 15, 2020.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Pace, Fred (April 29, 2018). "Manchin, Swearengin face off in Democrat primary for US Senate". Williamson Daily News. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  21. ^ Holdren, Wendy (May 7, 2018). "Who is Paula Jean Swearengin?". Montgomery Herald. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
  22. ^ "AP: Swearengin declared winner of Democratic U.S. Senate race in W.Va". WCHS-TV. June 10, 2020. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  23. ^ Mistich, Dave (August 8, 2019). "Democrat Swearengin Announces Renewed Bid for U.S. Senate in 2020". West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Archived from the original on August 9, 2019. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  24. ^ "United States Senate Election in West Virginia 2020". Ballotpedia. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  25. ^ Kilkenny, Katie (June 29, 2019). "'Knock Down the House' Stars Endorse Bernie Sanders' Campaign". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  26. ^ Thomas, Alex (July 10, 2020). "Swearengin receives Sanders endorsement". WV MetroNews. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
  27. ^ "US Sen. Shelley Moore Capito wins 2nd term in West Virginia". AP NEWS. November 4, 2020. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
  28. ^ "West Virginia Primary Election Results". The New York Times. May 9, 2018.
  29. ^ "West Virginia State Primary Election Unofficial Results". Clarity Elections: Election Night Reporting. West Virginia Secretary of State. June 10, 2020. Retrieved June 10, 2020.
  30. ^ "Revolt in West Virginia's Coal Country". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 14, 2018.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from West Virginia
(Class 2)

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