CHARLESTON, W.Va. — When U.S. Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., became a member of the West Virginia Legislature in 2007, she joined the 100-member House of Delegates as one of 28 Republicans.
As Miller’s tenure in the state Legislature continued, Republicans eventually took control of the House of Delegates and Senate, doing so in 2015.
Miller finds herself entering another government body as part of the minority party, the U.S. House of Representatives. Miller and other members were sworn in Thursday.
Democrats won 40 House of Representatives seats in last year’s midterm elections and take control of the chamber in the 116th Congress Republicans maintain control of the Senate with 53 seats.
Miller, who campaigned on being an ally to President Donald Trump, said it was important for her to build relationships with Democratic colleagues in the state Legislature, which she will aim to do in her new role.
“I never hesitated to reach across the aisle and make friends,” she said. “You may not agree on all the same issues, but you take each issue one by one.”
Miller beat state Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, 56.4 percent to 43.6 percent to become the next representative of the 3rd Congressional District, despite Ojeda’s grassroots fundraising and campaign efforts. State Supreme Court Justice Evan Jenkins left the position in September to serve on the bench.
Miller also did not speak openly about policy during the recent election season like Ojeda; her campaign did not respond to multiple interview requests from MetroNews and avoided other news outlets as well before the Nov. 6 election.
Yet Miller had Trump’s support; the president — who carried the state by 42 points in the 2016 election — endorsed Miller and attacked Ojeda, calling him “stone-cold crazy” and a “wacko.”
Ojeda announced soon after the election his bid for the U.S. presidency.
While Miller did not dive deep into policy in an interview with MetroNews, she said there are items she wants to focus on when she takes office.
“The infrastructure is so important, our water, the internet and broadband systems, the railroads. All of these things are pivotal to southern West Virginia,” she said. “I’ve just let all the different people know that I’m interested in all of those components that make our state the beautiful state that it is.”
Miller made multiple trips to Washington after the election, including for new member orientation. She will have offices in Huntington, Beckley and Bluefield to handle casework and constituent concerns.
“It’s all about representing people. I’ve done an awful lot of constituent contacts ever since I’ve been elected,” she said. “People started contacting me virtually the day after the election on different issues they needed help with.”
Miller is the lone Republican woman entering the House of Representatives for the first time; 29 Republican men were also sworn in for the first time.
In comparison, 35 new Democratic lawmakers of the 62 Democratic freshmen are women
According to Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics, 183 women ran in the general election this year as Democrats compared to 52 women who ran as Republicans.
Missy Shorey, the national executive director of the conservative PAC Maggie’s List, which endorsed Miller, said there is a problem in promoting conservative women.
“I believe we have a very important job to do as fiscally conservative women to convey our values in a media environment that often times is so critical of the president and Republican policies, and then they start lumping things together,” she said.
Fifty-nine percent of women voters nationally backed Democratic House of Representatives candidates compared to 51 percent of men voters who supported Republicans according to CNN’s exit polling. Women voters were also more likely to somewhat or strongly disapprove of Trump compared to men, who hold more positive views of the president.
Shorley said women candidates have to decide what best works for them regarding the president, noting Miller’s support of Trump would have impacted the 3rd District race differently if Trump was unpopular in West Virginia.
“When it’s easy to get discouraged, I think it’s time to say, ‘What did we learn? Do we really want a Congress where there aren’t other Republican women?'” she added. “I don’t think people on either side of the aisle want that.”
Miller said she wants to help in the GOP’s efforts to reach out to women voters and possible candidates. As for why she is the only Republican woman to join, she pointed to the national effort of Democrats to win the House of Representatives.
“With the liberal money that came through, there were consequences. We’ll move forward to make sure we can recruit really strong women and do the best we can to get them elected,” she said.
Miller is also part of a Congress that was handed partial government shutdown; Democratic leaders have rejected Trump’s request of $5.7 billion for a wall on the southern border. Miller said through a campaign spokesperson Wednesday she stands by Trump and Republicans regarding funding for border security.
“Republicans in Congress and our president are working hard to protect our border, and keep America safe and secure. Outcomes are what matter, not endless commentary,” she said. “We’ve seen a safer and more prosperous America over the last two years and I look forward to working to continue to deliver results for West Virginia.”
Miller joins Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., in the House of Representatives. McKinley began his fifth term on Thursday, while Mooney started his third term.