CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A year after President Donald Trump was sworn into office, West Virginia National Guard Maj. Tom Willis is not afraid to embrace the image of political outsider.

“I’m not a career politician,” Willis said on MetroNews “Talkline” last week. “I think he’s getting obstruction from both sides at times. Fortunately, I think we are moving in the right direction, but I think we still have a lot more work to do.”

Willis said he will use that non-politician angle to set him apart in the race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate; Willis made his campaign official with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office on Jan. 8, the first day of the candidate filing period.

Willis, who lives in Hedgesville, is the co-owner of the Glen Ferris Inn in Fayette County. He is also on reserve with the National Guard’s special operations forces. He said he previously worked as a tax attorney in Washington, D.C.

When “Talkline” host Hoppy Kercheval asked Willis why he was running for the GOP nomination, Willis said he feels called to continue his service as a statesman.

“I look at where we are in the rankings as a state with West Virginia and I look at what the career politicians are doing in D.C., and frankly I’m not satisfied with either and I don’t think our fellow West Virginians are, either,” he said.

Willis’ opponents in the primary include U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, former coal miner Bo Copley and former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. One of those five candidates will likely face U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in the general election, though activist Paula Jean Swearengin is challenging Manchin with a platform similar to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Willis said his main policy concern is economic growth, which he believes come from the private sector. He said his platform is one of economic conservatism, and it includes cutting regulations, keeping taxes low and reducing spending.

“If we do those things, we free our entrepreneurs so our kids in West Virginia can graduate from college or high school and find a good job here as opposed to having to go elsewhere,” he said.

The primary election will be held May 8.

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