Unrepentant January 6 rioter Derrick Evans takes on Republican Rep. Carol Miller in West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – Incumbent Rep. Carol Miller has faced many political challengers during her long, popular career, but perhaps none as vocal as Derrick Evans, her opponent in Tuesday’s Republican primary in West Virginia’s 1st congressional district.

Evans was a participant in the January 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol, and his verbal attacks on the three-term congressman have grown louder as the election approaches.

Both are strong supporters 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 rancher and small business owner also served six terms in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Her father is the late U.S. Representative Samuel Devine of Ohio.

In 2022, Miller received 66% of the vote in a five-candidate Republican Party primary on her way to winning her third term in Congress. This time, Evans is her only opponent.

Evans, 39, whose campaign has released emails highlighting his love for Trump and his attacks on Miller almost daily for the past month, was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates two months before the Jan. 6 riot . He calls himself the only elected official who “had the courage” to back efforts to temporarily halt the certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. He livestreamed himself on Facebook, cheering what he described as a “revolution.”

Evans was arrested two days after the riot and resigned a month before the 2021 legislative session. He pleaded guilty to a civil disorder charge and served three months in jail. During his sentencing hearing, Evans apologized for his actions, but made a U-turn when he left prison. He began to portray himself as a victim of politically motivated persecution.

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

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

Evans repeats the false claims Trump continues to make that the 2020 election was stolen. And in the hours after Evans and other rioters stormed the Capitol, Miller voted to challenge the Electoral College results in two states that 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 ran for office as a Democrat.”

The winner of Tuesday’s race will advance to the Nov. 5 general election to face one of Charleston’s two Democrats: Vietnam veteran Jim Umberger or educator Chris Reed.

In the 2nd Congressional District, State Treasurer Riley Moore was one of five candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the seat vacated by Republican Alex Mooney, who is running for the U.S. Senate. Democrat Steven Wendelin was unopposed.

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

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