The People’s Tribune spoke with Paula Swearengin about the new documentary “Knock Down The House” by Rachael Lear. It showcases the grassroots campaigns of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, NY, Amy Vilela, NV, Cori Bush, MO, and Paula Swearengin WV, challenging Democratic Party incumbents for House of Representative seats in the 2018 Midterm elections. The film is currently on Netflix.
Paula Swearengin: “For the premiere in Charleston, WV, one couple drove 17 hours. Others drove 5 ½ hours. There was a lot of unity in the room, very inspiring.
It was exciting to watch everyone work from the ground up. We were 100% grassroots. We didn’t do it for political careers. It was a matter of survival. I was glad Rachael got into the film the stuff about Cori and Ferguson and Amy on the need for Medicare-for-All, and the story about losing her daughter.
I was a single mom, a coal miner’s daughter, unaware of what was going on around me until my neighbor’s daughter got cancer. I learned about mountain top removal. As a kid, I drank acid mine drainage water. We were really sick as kids.
My biggest fear was that my children would get cancer. We fought for years against mountain top removal, mechanization taking jobs, the destruction of our communities, water pollution and slurry impoundments like the Brushy Fork impoundment, a very unstable structure. If that breaks, thousands will die.
In the Massey Coal era, the media wasn’t talking about the poverty. We were divided between clean water and jobs. WV is one of the poorest states. It’s hard to think about your lungs when you’re working in the mines to feed your family.
But the market declined again and there’s no alternatives. Coal isn’t coming back. The addiction epidemic is getting worse. People are beginning to realize a lot has changed here but our government didn’t change.
So Governor Jim Justice is why I decided to run for office. He is one of the biggest coal barons in West Virginia. Senator Joe Manchin recruited him (for office). Manchin pretty much owns the Democratic Party here.
Some organizations reached out to me after seeing videos of me with Bernie (Sanders) and another of me chewing out Joe Manchin at a Town Hall meeting. I hopped in my car and got an IOU for the tolls to give him a piece of my mind again. I’d had enough!
I wanted to make sure people knew we were desperate here. We’re labeled as “hillbillies” with no teeth, no shoes, or brains but we have more regular Democrats and Independents than we have Republicans. Bernie won in all 55 counties but the super delegates, including Manchin, voted against the will of the people. So I thought “who better to challenge Manchin than a poor coal miner’s daughter?”
Alexandria won! But our campaign was inspiring. Manchin is very powerful but we showed he could be challenged. [I] got more votes against an incumbent than anyone in 75 years. More votes than any Republican, and I was an unknown candidate in WV!”.