By Charles Winslow
MARTINSBURG – Drawing strength and determination from her own life experiences, Angela Dwyer believes she can give voice to the concerns of West Virginian voters if she is elected to represent the Mountain State’s Second Congressional District.
“My number one priority in Congress will be lowering the poverty rate, said Dwyer, a 56-year-old African- American mother of three grown children and four step-children. “We need to provide jobs and that will help keep people off of the streets.”
A resident of the eastern panhandle city of Martinsburg for the past two years, Dwyer said she decided to get into the U.S. Congressional race because she was not impressed by Rep. Alex Mooney’s, her current congressman, response to the pandemic or his approach to dealing with his district’s problems.
“One day in winter I saw a teenage girl walking on the streets with no coat. Who lets their kids walk the streets with no coat?” she asked rhetorically. “I started looking into Martinsburg’s poverty rate and we have one of the highest.”
A security operations manager for a large company, Dwyer was born and raised in Coatesville, Chester County, Pennsylvania, and was graduated high school there in 1983. Her mother and father owned the famous “The Middle East Inn” in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Dwyer’s father, saxophonist Linwood “King Twigg” Smith, led a band that worked with such notable entertainers as The Drifters, The Platters, Pattie LaBelle as well as Little Anthony and The Imperials.
“My mother and father instilled a strong work ethic in me. I was the youngest of six children and by age 8 I was helping out around the bar,” she said, referring to her family-run establishment.
After high school, Dwyer attended Morgan State College, was elected student government president and earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration. Returning to Coatesville and marrying, she supported her alma mater as an assistant girls basketball coach.
Finding the courage to leave an abusive marriage, she first moved to Leesburg, Virginia, then bought a house in the more affordable Martinsburg: where she married Gary Dean Dwyer.
“He supports me 100 percent and understood what my dreams were from the very beginning,” she said. “In Congress I will work to advance women and minority programs. In West Virginia I feel women have been put on the backburner and don’t really have much of a say. We need opportunity for women here.
“I feel that I am able to help other women with my story and that’s what I want to do. Every woman deserves an opportunity to live free and feel safe in her own home,” she said.
Voicing her concern about the poverty rate, Dwyer said she will support raising the federal minimum wage to $18 per hour, stating people need to be able put food on their table and raise their family without the fear of ending up on the streets.
“We need social services projects to employ people; however, we need to have businesses and corporations involved. Maybe give them tax credits and rebates for creating more jobs. Especially for people who have experienced poverty. When I separated from my ex all I had were part-time jobs and ended up living on a futon. We need social programs, especially for women who have been in abusive marriages. They need every opportunity,” she added.
Touching on law enforcement issues, Dwyer said she opposes “defund the police” policies, believing it’s important to have a positive community-police relationship. “I don’t believe in defunding the police, but retraining on how they do their jobs.” Dwyer said. “We need to weed out the bad and invest in police officers and community relations.”
The parent of children who are gay, Dwyer said she also believes school districts should do more to support their LGBT students and not try to silence them. “We need to support our children. Everyone needs support when they are going through a hard time,” she said, adding children need to be able to speak their feelings and not deal with the “they are gay, give them a pill” attitude. “Don’t say: ‘You’re gay and I don’t want you to rub off on our kids in the classroom,’ ” she admonished.
When asked what made her qualified to run for Congress she said: “I have compassion and can look at issues from both sides. The Republicans don’t have all the answers and the Democrats don’t. I will look at both sides of the issues. I can reach across the aisle and understand their positions so we can up with solutions.”
While an advocate for advancing women and minority opportunities, Dwyer is confident in her ability to be win the Democrat Party’s primary and be elected to represent the Mountain State in the House of Representatives. While West Virginia may have the stigma of being a “racial state,” Dwyer said her experiences have shown her that isn’t true. “Black, white, Latino, Asian American, the state is becoming a melting pot and everyone gets along and can live with each other.”
“In 2008 the U.S. was ready for President Obama and in 2022 West Virginia is ready for an African American represent them in the House. I want to work for women and minorities and to serve all of the constituents in West Virginia,” she concluded.