Richard Ojeda

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Richard Ojeda
MAJ Richard Ojeda.jpg
Member of the West Virginia Senate
from the 7th district
Assumed office
December 1, 2016
Serving with Ron Stollings
Preceded byArt Kirkendoll
Personal details
Richard Neece Ojeda II

(1970-09-25) September 25, 1970 (age 48)
Rochester, Minnesota, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Kelly Ojeda
EducationWest Virginia State University (BA)
Webster University (MBA)
Military service
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1988–2013
Battles/warsWar in Afghanistan
Iraq War
AwardsBronze Star (2)

Richard Neece Ojeda II (/ˈɛdə/;[1] born September 25, 1970) is an American politician serving as the West Virginia State Senator from the 7th district since 2016. A member of the Democratic Party, he is running for President of the United States in the upcoming 2020 election.[2]

After finishing high school, Ojeda served in the United States Army for 24 years, reaching the rank of major. During his service, he received two bronze stars and graduated from West Virginia State University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in general education, and Webster University, where he earned a Master of Business Administration. Following his retirement from the U.S. Army, he worked as a high school teacher for four years, before successfully campaigning for the West Virginia Senate in 2016.

Ojeda attracted national attention when he became a vocal supporter of the 2018 West Virginia teachers' strike and successfully advocated the legalization of cannabis in the state. After improving Democratic results by 32 percentage points during his unsuccessful run against Carol Miller in West Virginia's 3rd congressional district in the 2018 election, Ojeda announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States on November 12, 2018. While politically Ojeda considers himself a moderate, his views have been been likened more to left-wing populism, running on a Medicare for all, legalization of cannabis, anti-lobbyism and government accountability platform.

Early life and education[edit]

Ojeda was born in Rochester, Minnesota, the son of Florena (Pansera) and Richard N. Ojeda.[3] He was born into a Democratic family and registered as a Democrat himself. He remarked that "back when I was in high school, being a Republican was like cursing". Ojeda's paternal grandfather was Mexican, and had immigrated from the Mexican state of Jalisco. His father was born in the United States, but moved to Mexico and lived there until the age of 8.[4][5][6]

Ojeda graduated from Logan High School in 1988.[5][1] After high school, Ojeda attended West Virginia State University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in general education, and Webster University, where he earned a master's degree in business and organizational security.[7]

Military and teaching careers[edit]

Ojeda 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.[1] He earned two Bronze Stars.[1] During his service, he spent time in Korea, Honduras, Jordan, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Iraq,[1] where he was attached to the 20th Engineer Brigade.[8]

After retiring from the military, Ojeda has worked as a high school teacher from 2013 to 2016, when he became a member of the West Virginia Senate.[9] He helped start a Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps at a local high school.[1] He established a nonprofit, the Logan Empowerment Action and Development, which engages in community cleanup and provides food, clothes and toys for the poor, elderly and children.[1]

Political career[edit]

West Virginia Senate[edit]

Ojeda received national attention when he was assaulted at a primary campaign event in May 2016.[10]

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.[11][1]

In the Senate, he called for increases in teacher wages, arguing that low pay would lead to strikes and teachers leaving the state.[9] In January 2018, he criticized West Virginia Governor Jim Justice's proposed 1–2% increase in teacher wages, saying it was insufficient.[9]

Ojeda has stated "I don't think I’ve ever voted for a Democrat for president" and supported Donald Trump in 2016.[12][13] 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".[1] Ojeda supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.[14]

Congressional campaign[edit]

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.[15]

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 and faced Republican Carol Miller in the general election.[16]

While personally pro-life, Ojeda believes abortion should be legal because blocking access to abortion would disproportionately hurt the poor.[14] He has been described as a populist.[17]

The web publication said that Ojeda's race is 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."[18]

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%.[19]

Presidential campaign[edit]

On November 11, 2018, a statement of organization was filed with the Federal Election Commission, declaring the formation of a Principle Campaign Committee for Richard Ojeda as a candidate for President of the United States.[20] Later that day, WSAZ reported that Ojeda would officially announce his candidacy on the following day,[21] which he did on November 12, 2018 at 12:00 p.m. EST.

Electoral history[edit]

West Virginia Senate District 7 (Position B) election, 2016[22]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Richard Ojeda 19,978 58.8%
Republican Jordan Ray Bridges 13,987 41.2%
Total votes 33,965 100.0%
West Virginia's 3rd congressional district Democratic primary, 2018
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Richard Ojeda 29,837 52.0%
Democratic Shirley Love 14,251 24.9%
Democratic Paul Davis 9,063 15.8%
Democratic Janice "Byrd" Hagerman 4,176 7.3%
Total votes 57,327 100.0%
West Virginia's 3rd congressional district, 2018[23]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Carol Miller 98,048 56.41
Democratic Richard Ojeda 75,776 43.59
Total votes 173,824 100.00


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kruse, Michael (March 2, 2018). "'He's JFK With Tattoos and a Bench Press'". Politico.
  2. ^ "W.Va. Sen. Richard Ojeda officially announces run for president in 2020". WSAZ. November 12, 2018. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Larissa MacFarquhar (November 10, 2016). "Learning Trump Won, in West Virginia". The New Yorker. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  5. ^ a b MacFarquhar, Larissa (October 10, 2016). "In the Heart of Trump Country". The New Yorker. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  6. ^ Schwartzmann, Gabe (March 15, 2018). "Analysis: The Mountain State's Labor Tradition". The Daily Yonder. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  7. ^ "Ojeda's education".
  8. ^ "Meet Richard Ojeda (official website)". Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c WRITER, Rusty Marks STAFF. "Senator warns of possible teacher strike". WV News. Retrieved May 9, 2018.
  10. ^ Stelloh, Tim (May 9, 2016). "West Virginia State Senate Candidate, a Veteran, Brutally Beaten". NBC News. Retrieved June 4, 2017.
  11. ^ Barren, Amanda (April 19, 2017). "UPDATE: Gov. Justice signs medical marijuana bill into law". WSAZ. Retrieved June 4, 2017.
  12. ^ Ball, Krystal (January 12, 2016). "This could be the future of the Democratic Party". Vice News. HBO. Retrieved January 13, 2018.
  13. ^ Can A Trump Voter From West Virginia Win The 2020 Democratic Primary?. FiveThirtyEight. November 12, 2018.
  14. ^ a b Murphy, Tim (May 8, 2018). "He Voted for Trump. Now He's Running for Congress as a Pro-Pot, Pro-Coal Democrat". Mother Jones. Retrieved May 8, 2018.
  15. ^ Ferguson, F. Brian (May 11, 2017). "Ojeda, Phillips latest to declare runs for Congress". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved June 4, 2017.
  16. ^ Fernández Campbell, Alexia (May 9, 2018). "Richard Ojeda's West Virginia primary win gives Democrats their best chance to turn coal country blue". Vox. Retrieved May 9, 2018.
  17. ^ Murphy, Tim (May 9, 2018). "West Virginia's Surging Democrat Richard Ojeda Slams Trump". Mother Jones.
  18. ^ Could Democrats flip a West Virginia district Trump won by 49 points?,, Igor Derysh, October 13, 2018. Retrieved October 13, 2018.
  19. ^
  20. ^ Hall, Steven. "Form 1 for Ojeda for President". Federal Election Commission. Retrieved November 11, 2018. This article incorporates public domain material from this U.S government document.
  21. ^ WSAZ News Staff (November 11, 2018). "State Senator Richard Ojeda to run for President in 2020". Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  22. ^ "Statewide Results: General Election - November 8, 2016". West Virginia Secretary of State. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  23. ^ "Unofficial Results". November 6, 2018 General Election. West Virginia Secretary of State. November 7, 2018. Retrieved November 12, 2018.

External links[edit]