Candidate running as 'Trump Democrat' slams president, backs citizenship for illegal immigrants

A Democrat seeking a U.S. House seat in deep-red West Virginia bills himself as a "Trump Democrat" -- even though he has claimed the president "hasn't done s---," backs a pathway to citizenship for illegal immgrants and opposes a border wall.

Richard Ojeda, an Army veteran and state senator who’s been branded as a “JFK with tattoos and a bench press,” initially captured attention after revealing that he voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

He’s now running against Republican Carol Miller in West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, which President Trump won by nearly 50 points in the 2016 presidential election.

Yet a poll from June indicates that Ojeda's message of populism – including support for the coal industry and hopes of seeing Trump succeed as the president – has resonated with potential voters, putting him in a 6-point lead against Miller.

But despite his claims that he wants Trump to become a successful president, Ojeda has made numerous anti-Trump comments in the past and has criticized the White House agenda.

“He hasn’t done s---,” Ojeda told Politico about Trump, expressing regret at having supported the Republican presidential nominee. “It’s been a friggin’ circus for a solid year,” he continued, claiming that Trump hadn’t changed anything for the people.

“All he’s done is shown that he’s taking care of the daggone people he’s supposed to be getting rid of,” Ojeda added.

He repeated his criticism in an interview with the leftist Mother Jones magazine, saying the administration has been “a circus” and urged Trump to “put your cellphone down” and “stop tweeting and fighting with Rosie O’Donnell.”

“Be President, we need that. I don’t want him to fail, I don’t want him to fail because he’s our president,” he continued. “He’s piloting the plane that we’re all on. But, goodness gracious, this is just brutal. And every day it’s something new that comes out. It seems like it’s pushing us closer to war with another country. And that’s, that’s diplomacy. We’ve got to be smarter than this.”

But Ojeda’s opposition to the president may be the least of his worries as he came out in support of the policies embraced by left-wing Democrats.

During a Facebook livestream last year, Ojeda read a comment from a viewer who said that the U.S. should look after veterans should before illegal immigrants.

"Most of them are already here. They haven’t broken the law, let them become citizens."

- Richard Ojeda

Ojeda replied by saying, “We can do both … it’s not like we’ve got millions of them storming in, it’s not happening,” adding that “most of them are already here. They haven’t broken the law, let them become citizens.”

As well as allowing a pathway to citizenship, Ojeda came out against the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. In an interview with the far-left Young Turks channel, he said while he wants to strengthen the U.S. borders, he doesn’t “think that that really necessarily means a wall from one side to the other.”

The candidate has also flip-flopped – around the time he started running for U.S. Congress – on his views regarding whether illegal immigrants are exploiting the welfare system.

“When you hear about illegal aliens getting benefits and you have people here starving to death and can’t get nothing, it’s just a slap in the face,” Ojeda told the New Yorker magazine in 2016. “When you start talking about bringing in refugees and when they get here they get medical and dental and they get set up with some funds — what do we get?”

He added: “So when people hear Donald Trump saying we’re going to take benefits away from people who come here illegally and give them to people who work, that sounds pretty good.”

Over a year later, Ojeda dismissed any suggestions that illegal immigrants have access to a social safety net, calling it a “myth.”

“Yeah, most immigrants don’t receive food stamps or welfare.  That’s a myth, ladies and gentlemen,” Ojeda said on Facebook. “If they’re in this country, for the most part, and they’re not here legally, they’re trying to get through it? Guess what?  They don’t get them.”

The campaign for Ojeda didn’t reply to Fox News’ request for a comment.

Lukas Mikelionis is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @LukasMikelionis.