CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Senate candidate attacked at a Mother’s Day cookout in Logan County is putting off surgery to allow time for last minute campaigning ahead of Tuesday’s primary election.
“I don’t care how swollen my face is, I want people to see that I’m in this fight,” Richard Ojeda told Hoppy Kercheval on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline” from his hospital bed at Charleston Area Medical Center General Hospital.
The 7th Senatorial District Democratic candidate was being treated there for eight facial fractures and two cuts that needed stitches and reported feeling “really sore” and “dizzy” a day after being assaulted.
On Sunday, Ojeda said a man he grew up with in the Whitman Creek area, identified as Jonathan Porter, 41, of Logan County, approached him at the cookout and asked for a bumper sticker to support Ojeda’s campaign.
Once Ojeda placed a bumper sticker on the back of his vehicle, Porter, he claimed, requested one for the front of the vehicle as well.
“He told me where he wanted me to put it and, when I kneeled down to put it on the front of his car, the next you know, I’m waking up and my head’s on a tree stump and it’s covered in blood and then I just go in and out until I’m at the hospital,” Ojeda said.
Witnesses told Ojeda that Porter had kicked him in the back of the head with his boot, beat him with brass knuckles and, at one point, attempted to run over Ojeda. As others tried to intervene, Porter fled.
Ojeda remembers little of the attack.
“I haven’t spoke to this boy in years and we’ve never ever had any issues. I mean, we were friends. I’ve known this boy since I was probably seven years old,” Ojeda said of Porter. “He was completely nice to me. He lured me over away from the crowd, got me behind his vehicle where he was hoping nobody would see him and he did what he did to me.”
On Monday, while Ojeda was being treated at CAMC, Porter was being held in the Southwestern Regional Jail on charges of felony destruction of property, malicious assault and attempt to commit a felony following his arrest on Sunday night.
“I believe this was political,” Ojeda said of the attack.
Ojeda is a retired U.S. Army officer with an extensive military career covering more than 20 years.
“I spent years in Iraq and Afghanistan and, for me to come home — I’ve got names on my back of soldiers that never come home — for me to come home and realize that these people that are claiming to be leaders have done nothing but squander away everything that we have fought (for) and people died for, no, I’m not going to quiet down,” Ojeda pledged.
“I’m sick and tired of these people. I’m not living under somebody’s thumb.”
Ojeda’s opponent in Tuesday’s primary is Senator Art Kirkendoll (D-Logan, 07). The nominee moves on to the November general election.
A former Logan County commissioner, Kirkendoll was first appointed to the state Senate in Nov. 2011 to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin as he moved from the Senate to the Governor’s Office. He was elected to the Senate in 2012.
Kirkendoll issued the following statement on Sunday:
“I was informed that my opponent was physically assaulted and injured at a political function today. I do not now, nor have I ever, condoned violence. It has no place in our political campaigns or in our communities. My and my family’s thoughts and prayers are with my opponent and his family and we wish him a speedy recovery.”
The 7th West Virginia Senatorial District includes Boone, Lincoln and Logan Counties along with parts of Mingo County and Wayne County.
In 2014, Ojeda ran for the Democratic nomination for Congress in West Virginia’s 3rd District. He lost that bid in May 2014 to longtime Congressman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) who went on to be beat in the November 2014 general election by current 3rd District Congressman Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.).
In a Facebook posting, Ojeda wrote the following of his 2016 primary run following the attack:
“I am now even more dedicated to the cause. This doesn’t scare me and I don’t quit! This was premeditated and there was a reason the guy did this. Regardless, if anyone thinks that this will get me to mark in line, you obviously don’t know me very well.”
Poll hours are from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday for West Virginia’s primary election. Follow the results with MetroNews on the MetroNews Radio Network and at wvmetronews.com.