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Veterans declare for federal office
July 27, 2017

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Several West Virginia veterans of the armed services have launched campaigns for the United States House of Representatives over the last few months, possibly ending West Virginia's current streak of failing to send any veterans to Washington.

West Virginia boasts the 5th largest percentage of veterans of any state in the United States, according to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, approximately nine percent as of 2015. Yet, none of the five elected members of Congress (two senators and three representatives) have served in the military.

West Virginia's three members of the US House come from varied professional backgrounds. David McKinley (R), of the 1st Congressional District, is a former civil engineer, while Evan Jenkins (R), of the 3rd, was the director of the West Virginia State Medical Association and an instructor at Marshall University. Alex Mooney (R), of the 2nd Congressional District, was a congressional staffer and head of a conservative journalism training center. Politically, all three held elective office at some point prior to going to Congress. McKinley was in the West Virginia House of Delegates, Jenkins the West Virginia Senate, as a Democrat, and Mooney served in the Maryland State Senate. Yet none saw military service.

While the 2018 midterm primary elections are nearly 10 months away, several veterans have thrown their hats into the ring.

Aaron Scheinberg (D), of Berkeley County, is vying for his party's nomination to face Mooney in the 2nd Congressional District, which stretches from the Eastern Panhandle to Charleston and has the largest number of veterans of the three congressional districts. According to his campaign website, after graduating from West Point, he was deployed to Iraq as a platoon leader. Upon his return, he served as a regional director for the veteran centered non-profit The Mission Continues. If elected, Scheinberg will be the first veteran to represent his district since Harley O. Staggers, Sr., who retired in 1981. Staggers, a Democrat, was in the United States Navy during World War II. At the time of press the only other Democrat in the race is Talley Sergent, Hillary Clinton's 2008 and 2016 state director.

West Virginia's 3rd Congressional District features two veterans, so far, Democrat Richard Ojeda and Democrat-turned-Independent-turned-Republican Rupie Phillips, Jr. The eventual winner will replace Jenkins, who is leaving the seat to make a bid for the Republican nomination for United States Senate. No veteran has served the 3rd District since 1981, when incumbent Democrat John Hutchinson lost his bid for another term. According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, the 3rd district is home to the second largest number of veterans of West Virginia's three congressional districts and stretches along the southern part of the state.

Ojeda is a freshman member of the West Virginia Senate from Logan County. He served in the United States Army for 24 years, before retiring in 2013.

Phillips, of Logan County, is currently serving his fourth term in the West Virginia House. Prior to his political career, he was in the United States Air Force

Ojeda and Phillips both have competition in their respective primary elections.

Candidates have until the end of January to file for office in West Virginia.

H. S. Leigh Koonce is a sixth-generation West Virginian. He writes from Jefferson County.

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