W.Va. women make Democratic Party history

Natalie+Cline%2C+Cathy+Kunkel%2C+Hilary+Turner%2C+Paula+Jean+Swearengin

PHOTOS COURTESY OF WEST VIRGINIA CAN’T WAIT

Natalie Cline, Cathy Kunkel, Hilary Turner, Paula Jean Swearengin

By DOUGLAS HARDING and SEQUOIA WARE

EXECUTIVE EDITOR and reporter

For the first time in the state’s history, each of the Democratic Party’s nominees for U.S. Congress from West Virginia are women.

“West Virginia is showing the nation once again that change is necessary,” said Natalie Cline, the Democratic nominee in District 1. “We have chosen women who truly represent the people of this state. I am beyond proud to be one of the women on this historic ticket.”

The Congressional campaigns of Cline, Cathy Kunkel in District 2, Hilary Turner in District 3 and Paula Jean Swearengin’s bid for U.S. Senate all are part of a broader slate of dozens of campaigns which advanced through the June primaries operating under the grassroots-led West Virginia Can’t Wait movement and its progressive, pro-labor platform.

If Cline, Kunkel, Turner and Swearengin are elected in November, their victories would more than double the number of women ever to represent West Virginia in Washington D.C.

The only women ever elected to Congress from West Virginia are Elizabeth Kee, a Democrat elected in 1951 and the state’s first congresswoman; sitting Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, the first woman from West Virginia elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014 and now who now faces a challenge from Swearengin in the general; and sitting Republican Rep. Carol Miller, who is being challenged by Turner.

In the general, Kunkel will be up against five-year incumbent Republican Rep. Alex Mooney. Cline is running against incumbent Republican Rep. David McKinley.

Kunkel said she, Cline, Turner and Swearengin are running progressive campaigns committed to justice on the issues most impactful to women. She said women in West Virginia are more severely impacted by such issues than women in many other states.

A 2018 study by U.S. News and World Report ranks West Virginia the third worst state in the country for access to quality healthcare and seventh for education.

“All of us are fighting for justice on issues that too often disproportionately impact women—issues like affordable childcare, quality public education and…

… maintaining funding for critical programs like CHIP and SNAP,” Kunkel said. “I am excited to be a part of this historic moment.”

Turner said West Virginians should go out to vote for the slate of Democratic women running for office in the state because their policies will be most beneficial not only for young people and women but for most West Virginians in general.

“Get out and use your voice and vote,” Turner said. “We have a great opportunity this year to vote for progressive women who are going to not only defend women’s rights, but fight for the wellbeing of all people in West Virginia and for the future of our children.”

Turner, who is the mother of a two-year-old child, said she was inspired to run for office to fight for a better future for her daughter.

“I want to make sure that she gets to grow up in a world with stable water, a stable climate, quality education, universal health care and a more fair and just society,” Turner said.

Swearengin also said she is running for Senate to fight for her children’s futures and to represent the priorities and values of underrepresented West Virginians.

“I’m in this for my children and my grandchild,” Swearengin said. “I am ready to go with Hilary and the other women in Congress and bust the hall wide open and let them know that West Virginia is going to have a seat at the table.”

Douglas Harding can be contacted at [email protected]