CHARLESTON, W.Va. — When asked about why she is running for the 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, Talley Sergent put it bluntly: she’s had enough.
“‘I’ve had enough of the out-of-state corporations that have come to our state, taken from us, left us high and dry. I’ve had enough of the out-of-state pharmaceutical companies dumping pills in our towns, poisoning our people,” she told MetroNews. “And I’ve had enough, like many West Virginians, of out-of-state candidates coming to West Virginia just to run for office.”
Sergent, a Huntington native, is running against Aaron Scheinberg to decided who will be Democratic nominee in the 2nd Congressional District race against Republican Rep. Alex Mooney. Sergent’s campaign has gone after Scheinberg for his upbringing in New York and New Jersey, while Mooney served in the Maryland Senate between 1999 and 2011.
“We need to make sure we are getting our message out that there’s a better way,” she said. “Through new homegrown leadership, through new vision to tackle the economy and the drug epidemic, and creating opportunities so that we don’t lose another generation either to drugs or moving out of state.”
Sergent’s resume includes working for former U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the U.S. Department of State — in which she worked to address human trafficking — the Coca-Cola Company and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, for which she served as state director.
“This race is about the future of West Virginia, and anyone that tries to use old political figures of the past to drive division just goes to show you that they have no vision of their own,” Sergent said of her campaign work.
President Donald Trump beat Clinton in the 2016 general election by 42 points. Clinton’s popularity in the state was damaged after she said the federal government was “going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business” as a byproduct of economic development efforts.
Clinton said in her book “What Happened” the comment was the moment as a candidate she regretted the most.
Sergent said the original remark only represents Clinton.
“My grandfather was a coal miner. My great-grandfather was a Methodist minister down in the coal camps that witnessed to the miners before they went underground,” she said. “I don’t care about the national politicians, the national parties, the celebrities. That’s not how I roll.”
When asked if she would support House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as the party’s leader, Sergent said no.
“It is so toxic up there, and I don’t think that it’s representative of the people in West Virginia and across the country,” she said.
Sergent said the state’s problems are dependent on economic growth, adding she would support a “21st century New Deal” aimed at increasing infrastructure investments, making college affordable and promoting workforce development initiatives.
“Right now in the 2nd District, it’s so diverse,” she said. “In the Eastern Panhandle, you have job growth, but you don’t have a workforce filling those jobs. In the southern end down in the Kanawha Valley, there’s not as much job growth and there’s not the workforce available to fill those jobs, as well.”
Sergent said the federal government could play “a very large role” in higher education by making technical and community colleges free. Her proposal would also allow West Virginians whose households make less than $78,000 a year — around 82 percent more than the median income in the state — to go to a four-year in-state institution for free.
“I think that will help put them on a pathway to and fill the pipeline to jobs,” she said.
Sergent’s inspiration comes from her family; her mother is a school teacher who took part in the work stoppage earlier this year. One of Sergent’s campaign advertisements features her 11-year-old niece, Carter. Sergent’s mother is raising Carter and her two siblings because her mother has an addiction.
“Carter deserves the same chance as any other kid in West Virginia or across the United States,” Sergent said. “I want a bright future for the children and the next generation of West Virginians so that we can leave things better than they found them.”
Political analysts believe the 2nd Congressional District will stay Republican in the midterm election, but Sergent is not worried about those reports.
“We’re going to make sure we get out there and show the vision of a better West Virginia that puts the people of this state first, regardless of political party,” she said. “This is about us as a people.”