BUCKHANNON — The threat of 56,000 West Virginians losing their health care coverage if the Affordable Care Act is repealed was the impetus that propelled a West Virginia woman to run for United States Congress.
Talley Sergent, a Democrat, announced her intention Wednesday to seek the seat held by Republican Alex Mooney in the second congressional district. She is the second Democrat candidate to declare candidacy following the announcement of Army veteran Aaron Scheinberg on Monday.
Sergent, a native of Huntington, most recently served as state director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, but she got her start working for then-Sen. Jay Rockefeller on Capitol Hill.
Later, the University of North Carolina graduate worked as an executive at The Coca-Cola Company, where she led corporate social responsibility efforts, from promoting drinks with a lower sugar content to supporting the Special Olympics World Games. She also was employed by the U.S. State Department, where she worked to raise awareness to help stop human trafficking and build partnerships with the private sector to empower women and girls.
“The last several years I have been looking for opportunities to work in West Virginia,” she said. “I’m glad I am back home in the state. I had no plans to run for office until I saw what was happening in Washington late this spring regarding health care.
“To me, it is not OK what the politicians in Washington are doing to the people of the second district — taking away health care for 56,000 West Virginians and closing rural hospitals, which are a lifeline. I’ve seen that anywhere from 10,000 to 13,000 jobs would be lost if the Affordable Care Act would be repealed.”
Sergent said Mooney, who moved to West Virginia from Maryland before his election in 2014, is more concerned with representing the Washington elite than the people of the Mountain State.
“Alex Mooney is Washington through and through — he’s not one of us,” Sergent said. “His vote to take away health care is clear evidence that he hasn’t heard his constituents’ concerns, doesn’t understand us and puts his political party’ interests over the best interests of the people of West Virginia. His deciding vote on a health care bill that hurts the people of West Virginia — and that President Trump called ‘mean’ — will be stamped on his forehead. I will make sure that he has to answer for that vote every single day of this campaign.”
While Sergent said that the Affordable Health Care Act isn’t perfect, it can be improved with bi-partisan cooperation in the two houses of Congress.
Meanwhile, Mooney “has broken his promise to serve the people,” Sergent said.
So far, efforts to repeal Affordable Health Care Act have failed, with the Republican leadership in the Senate unveiling a revamped plan Thursday that is similar to previous efforts but would allow insurers to sell stripped down plans that don’t meet current minimum guidelines, while creating a fund for insurance companies to help cover the cost of high-risk patients.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the previous Senate bill would have increased the number of people without health insurance by 22 million by 2026. Numbers for the revised bill should be available by next week.
“They are going at the absolute core of who we are,” Sergent said. “If we are going to create jobs, grow our economy and provide opportunities for young people to stay in the state, we need a few key infrastructure items.”
A health care system is just one of those key infrastructure items Sergent is concerned about, along with broadband and roads.
“I just feel like I can’t sit on the sidelines anymore,” she said. “One of the things I have experience in from my time at the state department and Coca-Cola is bringing people together in the private, public and government sectors. I want to show the people of the second district that I can do it. That is one key thing that is not happening now that has to happen if we are going to grow our economy, diversify our economy and not stay 50th in the business climate.”
Sergent said she learned from her grandfather and also from Rockefeller the importance of serving the people through constituent services.
“I’m hearing they are not getting the support they need [from Mooney’s office], whether it is with their VA benefits or questions about health care,” she said.
And Sergent said that is hugely important.
“You have to go that extra mile if you are a public servant,” she said.
Mooney would not comment on the story, but a spokesman in his office released the following statement:
“Congressman Mooney is proud of his conservative voting record,” wrote Ted Dacey. “He will continue to stand with President Donald Trump to repeal Obamacare, defend the Second Amendment and revive our coal industry.”