In one of West Virginia Congresswoman Carol Miller’s hard-hitting 2018 campaign commercials, Miller looks straight into the camera and vows to “cut the bull” in Washington.
Clued-in West Virginians realized that, for years, Carol had been cutting the bull in West Virginia. Literally.
You see, Miller and her husband Matt own a bison farm in Milton, West Virginia, where Carol was always on the scene, knife in hand, when the bison meat was prepared for market.
“The ‘cut the bull’ slogan came about,” Miller says, “because I process animals. I’m in there. I don’t kill the animals, but I was always in there with the guys and gals while it was being processed.
“There were times when I’d take the knife and show them how I wanted something done. I would tell the guys ‘let’s cut this up like fajitas,’ and they’d look at me like I had three heads. So, I’d take the knife and I’d cut it in slivers.”
Clued-in West Virginians realized that, for years, Carol had been cutting the bull in West Virginia. Literally. “The ‘cut the bull’ slogan came about,” Miller says, “because I process animals [on our bison farm].”
Believe it or not, the bull-cutting Miller was the more low-key candidate for West Virginia’s 3rd district. Democrat Richard Ojeda, her opponent, who served in the state Senate, was a national media magnet, described in a sympathetic Politico profile as the “loudest, feistiest, most in-your-face congressional candidate in the country” that year. During the campaign, Ojeda appeared in a trailer for “Fahrenheit 11/9,” an anti-Trump movie by filmmaker Michael Moore.
Miller, who had served in the West Virginia House of Delegates from 2006 until 2018, had a decidedly different take on Trump. “I’m Pro-Life, Pro-Jobs, Pro-Coal, Pro-Second Amendment, and Pro-Trump, and I’m running to cut the bull out of politics!” Miller proclaimed on her campaign website. Trump, who had carried West Virginia’s 3rd congressional district overwhelmingly, made several trips to West Virginia to campaign for Miller. Despite Trump’s popularity in the district, the Democratic National Committee designated the race a “Red to Blue” contest and poured money into advertising attacking Miller.
Miller won by a comfortable margin, becoming the lone new woman on the Republican side of the aisle. She’s working to change that by helping to elect more conservative women.
“Well, of course you need more women,” Miller says. “I never let my gender identify me, but being a female, I do bring a different toolset to the table. It’s sort of like yin and yang. We do things differently. I always joke that I had seven plates spinning in the air at once. We multitask. Women bring a different perspective, and it’s very needed in government.”
Miller grew up around politics. She was born in Columbus, Ohio, the daughter of Samuel L. Devine, who represented Ohio’s 12th district in the U.S. House of Representatives. Devine was chairman of the House Republican Conference. Miller attributes her interest in politics to her father. “It must be some genetic thing,” she says, laughing. “My father was in Congress from 1958 to 1980. I was eight years old when he was first elected, and before that, he had been in the State House and was a prosecuting attorney. So, my childhood example was someone in public service. I’m the youngest of three. The other two were not even vaguely interested in politics. One of my sisters said, ‘how can you stand all those crowds and meetings?’ And I said, ‘I love it. I love being engaged with the community and the people.’”
Carol’s older sister went to Wellesley College in Massachusetts and—horror of horrors–returned home a liberal. Samuel Devine wasn’t about to let this kind of thing happen again. Carol went to Columbia College, a women’s college in South Carolina. It was in South Carolina that she met Matt Miller, a graduate of The Citadel, South Carolina’s revered military college. Miller was in the Army and had about eight months left to serve when he and Carol married. The Millers loved to ride and had four trail horses (“nothing fancy,” she says).
“A good job cures just about everything,” Miller says.
Matt Miller had fond memories of going to stay on his grandparents’ farm as a boy. In addition to needing a place for the horses, the Millers believed their two sons, Sam and Chris, would benefit from living in the country. “We bought a farm in 1992 and took our horses to the farm,” she recalls. “We realized that—all of a sudden—we had all this grass. And, so, we started looking into animals we could raise. Bison were native to West Virginia because at one point in our history, they were everywhere.
“And, so, we bought five females and a bull named Buster. And that started our farming. I’ve got about 37 now. We processed one on Wednesday. I used to be much more involved. Now, I basically feel like I am not a very good farmer at all, because I had to put some people on our farm to take care of the animals. But I still put the meat in a couple stores that like good, healthy, high-protein, grass-fed meat.”
Miller appeared in several ads looking and dressed as if she has been mucking out stables—which might very well have been the case. When she is not processing bison meat, she looks very post-deb in conservative clothes and big tortoise shell glasses. In addition to the farm, Miller worked in the family real estate business, raised her two sons, and volunteered.
She may also be the only person in the rough and tumble of Capitol Hill who has ever been known as “the Miss Manners” of her state. Miller taught a manners class to kids in elementary school in Huntington. Caroline Kitchener, who profiled Miller for The Lily, which is produced by The Washington Post, described how Miller would set the table for classes with her own China and silverware. “Always work from the outside, in,” she told her students. “And if you ever don’t know what to do, that’s okay — just look at the hostess.” Wearing Burt’s Bees cherry lip shimmer and with her blond hair behind her ear, she told Kitchener, “I was just trying to give them the tools to become good adults and make our world better.”
Miller waited until her sons were college-aged before running for office. Miller was elected to the House of Delegates in 2006 and rose to be the first female whip. “I had served eight years in the House of Delegates in the minority,” Miller recalls, “and then I became the assistant majority leader and then whip. Our speaker, who is Tim Armstead, knew I was a worker bee and that I got things done. I was there for a reason, the same way I am here in Washington for a reason. And that is to make things better for my state, to make things better for my country. Tim knew that I am reasonable. And so, he honored me with the whip job.”
Supporting West Virginia’s energy industry and improving the state’s infrastructure are two of Miller’s top goals. “There are so many things we need to do,” Miller says. “I’m on Transportation and Infrastructure Committees. We need to do a lot of work on infrastructure. West Virginia needs lots of roads. Huntington, West Virginia is the number two inland water port. We need to get busy with what the people elected us to do.”
Miller suggests that the “war on coal” during the previous administration contributed to the opioid crisis in West Virginia by putting people out of work.
One of the things Miller says she was not elected to do: impeach President Trump. “There are two charges claimed by House Democrats and there is zero cause for either.” Miller said on the floor of the House. Miller explains that while impeachment was going on, it “absolutely consumed what we’re doing. And that’s not why I’m here, you know?”
A member of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Natural Resources Committee, Miller is an advocate for both coal and natural gas and rejects the notion that the two sources of energy are in conflict. “Competition is good, and the important thing is representing them and making sure that I cross the t’s and dot the i’s wherever necessary to help them both,” she told a reporter. Miller suggests that the “war on coal” during the previous administration contributed to the opioid crisis in her state by putting people out of work.
She says, “The war on coal was pivotal because, if you cut somebody off at the knees, if you eliminate their employment completely, they turn to other things. We had whole counties such as McDowell County, devastated by unemployment and opioids.”
Miller works with Lily’s Place in Huntington, which opened in 2014, to serve infants born to addicted mothers. It is the first Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) Center in the U.S. Lily’s Place helps such infants through withdrawal. Often mothers arrive at Lily’s Place not even knowing what drugs they have used. “The dealers, we want to put away, but the poor addicted people we need to help,” says Miller. She advocates treatment and making our southern border more secure.
And creating more jobs. “A good job cures just about everything,” she says. “It gives people hope, it gives them self -respect, and it gives them the ability to take care of themselves and to take care of their families.” She credits Trump with improving the economy and making jobs more plentiful before the COVID-19 shutdown. “He’s done a fabulous job,” she said shortly before the shutdown, “and West Virginia loves President Trump because he delivers on what he says he will do. He stepped up right away, and we’ve been able to cut some of the burdensome regulations that we’ve had… The coal miners, the guys in gas and oil, the working people really relate to him because he does what he says he is going to do. And it’s just been a great thing for West Virginia, and they’re very proud that he is President.”
IWF talked to Miller on a Friday, when she was mentally preparing to drive herself home to Huntington. It is a seven-hour drive. “I texted both my daughters-in-law at 7:15 this morning,” she says. “I asked which day was better for their girls to have a tea party with Gigi dressed in their princess dresses. So, my mind was already on the valuable time with my family I’d have when I got home. I’ll get in late tonight, and I’ll be back here Monday. But in the meantime, I’ll see my two precious little granddaughters. And we’re going to have a princess tea party.”
Because the Millers have lived in town, rather than on the farm, since Carol came to Congress, she won’t get to cut any bull while she is at home. But no doubt she will find plenty in need of her attention when she returns to D.C.