West Virginia State Senator Richard Ojeda will resign his seat next week in order to concentrate fully on his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Richard Ojeda: “I’m not going to let my seat sit empty”
Ojeda, a retired Army major and Democratic member of the State Senate since 2016, announced his intention to resign yesterday.
“I’m running for the presidency of the United States of America and I’m not going to let my seat sit empty while I’m in Iowa,” he said.
“It needs to be filled with somebody who’s going to go in here and just going to do their best to help the state.”
Ojeda plans to officially submit his resignation on Tuesday, January 15th.
The rise to national prominence of Richard Ojeda
Despite spending only two years in the State Senate, Ojeda managed to build a significant state-wide and national profile during his relatively brief tenure.
In 2017 he was one of the main proponents of West Virginia’s medical cannabis legalization bill. In 2018 he was a key leader of the statewide teacher strike.
Ojeda stood for the open West Virginia 3rd Congressional district during the 2018 midterm elections. He lost to Republican Carol Miller, but by a much closer margin than the 2016 Democratic candidate.
On November 11th, just three days after the midterms, Ojeda filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to run for president in 2020.
Officially announcing his candidacy for president on a Facebook Live video, he included an explanation of his his most prominent policy, known as “Service Requires Sacrifice.”
“We have elected officials who say they’re going to run for office to serve the people, but in reality they legislate themselves into wealth,” he explained.
“They go into office and in one or two terms they are worth millions and millions of dollars. And that has to stop.”
Ojeda proposes new legislation to prevent anyone seeking elected federal office using their position to enrich themselves. Before taking office they would be required to donate any personal wealth in excess of $1 million to charity (and not, he notes, a charity run by their children). Once out of office, the income of former officials would be capped at $250,000 per year.
“Everyone who runs for federal office has to prove that they mean what they say when the talk about sacrifice,” Ojeda explained.
Officials would also be required to use the same healthcare system as the average American.
“No more Cadillac deals for those in legislatures to get phenomenal healthcare while the rest of us struggle,” Ojeda said. “I can guarantee you we will finally see a fix in our healthcare system when the very people voting on those bills are directly affected.”
Service Requires Sacrifice is the first of four “missions” Richard Ojeda will propose during his campaign. The remaining three will be revealed at dates yet to be announced.
What will happen to Ojeda’s seat in the WV Senate?
The 60-day 2019 West Virginia Legislature session began yesterday.
To replace Ojeda, a “7th District Senatorial Executive Committee” will be formed to choose Richard Ojeda’s replacement. It will be composed of one woman and one man from each of the five counties in the district. The committee will propose three choices for the appointment, from which the governor will make the final selection.
Speaking to West Virginia Broadcasting, Ojeda expressed concerns about who ultimately might be chosen as his successor:
“I just hope that whoever is selected to be my replacement is somebody that the Democratic Party will be happy to have in that caucus with them, and not lobbyists or anything like that – not somebody that the governor picks because he just wants to have somebody that’s going to do his bidding.”
One rumored replacement, Paul Hardesty, is a registered lobbyist and has worked for companies owned by Governor Jim Justice.
Ojeda harshly criticized the possible move.
“If those rumors are true then, shame, shame on the supposed leaders of this state,” he said.