CHARLESTON — U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said the Republican Party needs to return to being a big tent if it wants to return to the White House and to majorities in Congress.
Capito, R-W.Va., gave a speech Monday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley, Calif. Capito, the vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, was invited to speak at the Reagan Foundation for its “Time for Choosing” speaker series.
Named for a speech the late President Ronald Reagan, then the governor of California, gave in 1964 in support of the presidential campaign of Republican Arizona U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, the Time for Choosing series invites speakers to discuss the future of the Republican Party, its successes and failures, and for what the party should be standing.
Past speakers include Vice President Mike Pence, a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, former U.N. Ambassador and Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who just announced his Republican presidential campaign earlier Monday.
“Before you ask, no, I am not running for president,” Capito said. “These days, I know it’s rare to hear a U.S. senator say that.”
With a Republican Party battling between the traditional limited government conservatism of Reagan and the nationalist conservative movement personified by former president and current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Capito said the Republican Party must come together over the things both coalitions can agree on in order to be more appealing to the country as a whole.
“As President Reagan said in 1967, there is room in our tent for many views,” Capito said. “Indeed, the divergence of views is one of our strengths. We need to make the case for our policies and our ideas with facts and compassion, recognizing that just as our party is a big tent, our country is an even bigger tent and there’s so much more that unites us than divides us.”
Capito is the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate in West Virginia history and the 45th woman elected to the U.S. Senate. She has served as a state lawmaker, a congresswoman representing the old 2nd Congressional District and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014.
She is the daughter of the late Republican Gov. Arch Moore, who served on Reagan’s presidential state campaign committee in 1979. Reagan later encouraged Moore, a former congressman, to run for U.S. Senate in 1984.
“My father, Arch Moore, served as governor of West Virginia the same time as Ronald Reagan served as governor of California,” Capito said. “He said he wanted my father to move back to Washington to renew the warm friendship they had when my dad worked with him on the campaign. I hold that very same Senate seat that President Reagan encouraged my father to run for.”
Capito said West Virginia is at the core of the questions the Reagan Foundation seeks to answer in its speaker series. Republicans became the majority voter registration in the state at the beginning of 2021 and have continued to grow since then. Republicans took the majority of the West Virginia Legislature in 2015. Capito’s nephew, State Treasurer Riley Moore, defeated the last Democrat – John Perdue – on the Board of Public Works in 2020. And U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin is the last elected Democrat representing West Virginia on Capitol Hill.
“For many, many decades, we were a deep blue state,” Capito said. “West Virginia eventually demonstrated what Ronald Reagan said: we didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left us.”
West Virginia’s turn from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party didn’t happen overnight, Capito said. She pointed to the progressive lean of the Democratic Party today and its hostility to West Virginia’s fossil fuel industry and its focus on social issues diametrically opposed to the values of many West Virginians.
“The left has only grown bolder in their crusade, one that prioritizes academic goals and partisan ideology over the wellbeing of everyday Americans,” Capito said. “Under the left’s vision for America, those who worked hard, saved, paid debts, and responsibly managed their credit are penalized to support those who have not.”
In her speech, Capito talked about the importance of the American family, the politicization of the FBI, the crisis at the southern border with Mexico and how Republican-led states are succeeding.
“Every day, leaders in states, particularly conservative states, are putting our ideas to the test and proving the limited government, free enterprise, low regulation and our model of freedom are the keys to prosperity and happiness,” Capito said. “I believe the State of West Virginia is leading the way now.”