Unrepentant Jan. 6 rioter Derrick Evans goes up against GOP Rep. Carol Miller in West Virginia

By The Canadian Press

Published 2:35 PDT, Tue May 14, 2024

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Incumbent Rep. Carol Miller has seen plenty of political challengers throughout her long, popular career, but perhaps not one as boisterous as Derrick Evans, her opponent in Tuesday's Republican primary in West Virginia's 1st Congressional District.

Evans was a participant in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, and his verbal attacks on the three-term congresswoman have grown louder as the election has neared. 

Both 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 per cent of the vote in a five-candidate GOP primary en route to winning her third term in Congress. This time, Evans is her only opponent.

The 39-year-old Evans, whose campaign over the past month has pushed out emails almost daily highlighting his love for Trump and his attacks on Miller, 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 stand behind efforts to temporarily halt the certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. He livestreamed himself on Facebook cheering on what he described as a “revolution.” 

Evans was arrested two days after the riot and resigned his seat a month before the 2021 legislative session. He pleaded guilty to a felony civil disorder charge and served three months in prison. At his sentencing hearing, 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. 

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.

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 per cent 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.”

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.”

The winner of Tuesday's race moves on to the Nov. 5 general election to face one of two Democrats from Charleston — Vietnam veteran Jim Umberger or educator Chris Reed.

In the 2nd Congressional District, state Treasurer Riley Moore was among five candidates seeking the GOP nomination for the seat being vacated by Republican Alex Mooney, who is running for U.S. Senate. 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.


Associated Press writer Leah Willingham contributed to this report.

– John Raby, The Associated Press

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