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Convicted Jan. 6 rioter loses GOP congressional bid in West Virginia

Derrick Evans served three months in prison after pleading guilty to a felony civil disorder charge in the 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Election 2024 West Virginia House
Posted at 7:42 AM, May 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-15 08:42:37-04

Congresswoman Carol Miller has held off a challenge from convicted Jan. 6 riot participant Derrick Evans to win the Republican primary for her U.S. House seat in West Virginia.

Miller defeated Evans in the 1st Congressional District and will try to capture her fourth term in November.

Miller focused on her own accomplishments and endorsements during her campaign, paying little attention to Evans. Not that it was easy.

Evans verbally attacked Miller with nearly every campaign email that he sent out over the past month that included name-calling and reinforcing his adoration for former President Donald Trump.

Miller expressed her gratitude in a statement following the primary victory.

“I’m thankful to represent my wild and wonderful state in Washington," Miler said, “and I will continue to work to make West Virginia the best place to live, work, and raise a family.”

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Evans was arrested two days after the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol and resigned from his West Virginia House of Delegates seat a month before the 2021 legislative session. Evans served three months in prison after pleading guilty to a felony civil disorder charge. At his sentencing, Evans apologized for his actions, but he did an about-face upon leaving prison. He began portraying himself as a victim of a politically motivated prosecution.

Both Evans and Miller are huge backers of former President Donald Trump, but that's where the similarities may end.

Miller has kept a low profile compared to some of her more outspoken colleagues since becoming the third woman from West Virginia elected to Congress in 2018. The 73-year-old bison farmer and small business owner also served six terms in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Her father is the late U.S. Rep. Samuel Devine of Ohio.

In 2022, Miller received 66% of the vote in a five-candidate GOP primary en route to winning her third term in Congress. This time, Evans, 39, was her only opponent.

Evans once called himself a Democrat, finishing sixth out of seven candidates in a state House primary in 2016. He then switched to the Libertarian Party in the general election and finished last among five candidates.

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In the campaign against Miller, Evans has called her a “commie RINO” who “refused to stand and fight with President Trump,” as well as an “undocumented Democrat.” Miller was aligned with Trump in nearly 100% of her House votes while the former president was in office.

Evans has echoed false claims still made by Trump that the 2020 election was stolen. And in the hours after Evans and other rioters had stormed the Capitol, Miller voted to challenge the Electoral College results in two states Biden won. Miller said in a statement at the time that she had a constitutional duty to “ensure that all Americans have access to free, fair, and accurate elections.”

In an email to The Associated Press, Miller did not directly address the 2020 result. But she said she is the only candidate in the race who “has never been a registered Democrat or run for office as a Democrat.”

Charleston librarian Derek Faux is an independent voter who participated in the Republican primary, picking the candidates he believed were the most distanced from Trump. That included his vote for Miller.

“It’s a shame that so many of them seem to support Trump,” Faux said. “I just don’t trust him as a politician. And I think people who support him shouldn’t be trusted, either.”

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Jody Roberts, whose husband, Mitch, was a longshot GOP candidate for governor on Tuesday, said she voted for Evans, whom she met along the campaign trail. Asked what made him stand out, Roberts said, “I think he was passionate.”

Roberts said Miller didn’t attend any of the campaign stops where she and her husband traveled to, and, “if I wasn’t with Mitch, he’s never mentioned her wherever he’s gone. I just never met her.”

Roberts said she wasn’t bothered by Evans’ involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“No. I know that sounds stupid,” she said. ”Do I think they went in and did wrong? Yes. They went too far? Yes. But they have every right to go and protest.”

Retirees Kathy Showen, of Cross Lanes, and Ron Weddington, of Hurricane, both said they voted for Evans more because they were turned off by Miller.

Showen said she had forgotten about Evans’ participation in the Jan. 6 riot and said her vote was for the least detrimental option.

Weddington said “there wasn’t an overall thing that I really liked” about Evans. “Basically, it was, I guess, Carol Miller’s negatives were more monumental than his.”

Sandi Shrewsbury, a retired nurse and independent voter from Scott Depot, said she couldn’t support either candidate.

“Evans had a right to protest, but it’s the way he chose to protest,” she said. “Politicians have a level of decorum they need to hold themselves to.”

Miller now moves on to the Nov. 5 general election to face Democratic educator Chris Reed, who won the party nomination against Vietnam veteran Jim Umberger.

In the 2nd Congressional District, state Treasurer Riley Moore beat four other candidates seeking the GOP nomination for the seat being vacated by Republican Alex Mooney, who lost his bid for the GOP nomination for a U.S. Senate seat. Democrat Steven Wendelin was running unopposed.

West Virginia hasn’t elected a Democrat to the House since 2012 and was one of only two states where Trump won every county in 2016 and 2020.