I was born at Charleston Memorial, and I spent the first three years of my life in Buffalo. My parents divorced when I was three years old. My mother, having a high school diploma and no work experience, did what she could to take care of us after the divorce. She received public assistance and we moved into a public housing complex called Miracle Acres just outside of Putnam County. She attended cosmetology and beauty school in Huntington to become a beautician. Because of government assistance, her own hard work, and the help of family, we made it. I would not be here as I am today without those programs and people.

My mother first met my stepdad when I was five. He played music on the weekends to pay his bills. My mom demanded more, so he got a job working in fast food. He worked at Captain D’s and later as a manager for Wendy’s. We moved into a small trailer they bought from my uncle. It was located behind Video Madness on Garfield Street in Winfield. The trailer and Video Madness are long gone. When my great grandmother died my 7th grade year, we moved into her Eleanor Home. I lived in that old homestead house until we bought our first house my junior year of high school, where they still live now. By that time, my stepdad had become a car salesman and moved into management. He made a solid middle-class income. Now, he works as a systems technician for a large tech company in Charleston. He got that job after he went back to school for an associate degree when the car industry took a dive during the Bush Administration. My mom is in her second year as a cook for Hometown Elementary. She took that job to make extra money and get affordable insurance.

Two of my brothers are welders/machinists. My sister is still in college at Ohio University, and, like me, she is going into public policy and politics with a focus on environmental policy. My stepmom is a special education teacher at Buffalo High. My dad works at the Toyota plant, and has for over 20 years. One of my grandfathers retired from Century Aluminum in Jackson County (the only grandparent still living), the other was a union electrician. My grandmothers were both stay-at-home mothers.

I graduated from Winfield High School and attended West Virginia State University. I got student loans and Pell Grants to pay for my education. I am still paying those loans, but I will give credit to the army for paying the bulk of my undergrad loans and providing me with funds for my M.P.A. and J.D. from West Virginia University. Again, I would not be where I am today without government assistance programs and hard work.

Why have I told you my family history? Because I am, and they are, the average West Virginian. I wasn’t born rich—quite the opposite. We relied at various times on government programs to make it, to survive. I understand what it’s like to have financial difficulties. I watched my family struggle at times, and I have had my own financial issues. I know what it’s like to search for work, to want to feel valued, and to want to earn a living and be proud of what you do.

I am running to give every West Virginian the opportunities that I’ve had, and that my family has had. I am running because I believe we can and should do better in government. I am running because I am the average West Virginian; I share our collective experience. Last, I am running because I want to serve you and give back just a bit of what has been given to me. I have worked my entire adult life to serve and help others, and I will never stop doing that.

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