Coal Tattoo

Coal politics: Some other races to watch on Tuesday

Republican Tom Smith, left, speaks as Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey looks on during a debate between Pennsylvania’s candidates for U.S. Senate, at the WPVI-TV studio, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, in Philadelphia.  (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

We’ve written before on this blog about the absurdity of West Virginia’s general election campaign, in which Republican candidates are trying to paint Sen. Joe Manchin and Gov. Tomblin — both staunch coal industry supporters — as part of the Obama administration’s alleged “war on coal.”

Well, West Virginia isn’t the only place this is happening — where candidates are being targeted by the coal industry not so much because they haven’t supported coal, but because of some hard-core litmus test for how strongly you’ve supported coal or how wild your rhetoric on the issue has been.

In Pennsylvania, for example, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey has been endorsed by the United Mine Workers of America, but is facing a former coal operator challenger who says Casey is not doing enough to help the industry. Or consider Virginia, where former Gov. Tim Kaine’s bid for U.S. Senate faces similar criticism from Republican George Allen. There’s also Ohio, where GOP challenger Josh Mandel  is running the same sort of campaign against U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, another Democrat who, like Casey and Kaine, was endorsed by the UMWA.

Or look out in Montana, where Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg is running against Democratic incumbent Jon Tester. Rep. Rehberg, of course, is one of the major forces behind the GOP’s efforts to block the Obama administration’s rules to help prevent deadly black lung disease among the nation’s coal miners.

In Indiana, former coal geologist Richard Mourdock faces Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly in the Senate race, and in New Mexico, coal has become a major issue in the Senate race between Democrat Martin Heinrich and GOP congresswoman Heather Wilson.

No for nothing, but among those Senate races, the one in West Virginia appears to be the only place where both the mining industry and the UMWA have endorsed the same candidate. In Virginia, Ohio, Montana, Indiana and New Mexico, you have Senate candidates — all Democrats — who support coal strongly enough to win UMWA endorsement, but are being opposed by the mining companies.

There are also a couple of coalfield House races that I’ll be watching tomorrow.

First, there’s the race in Kentucky’s 6th congressional district in which Democratic Rep. Ben Chandler (endorsed by the mine workers) is being challenged by Republican Andy Barr (backed by the mine owners). In Ohio’s 6th district, Republican Rep. Bill Johnson (endorsed by the mining industry and one of the most vocal critics of Obama administration coal policies), is being challenged by UMWA-endorsed Charlie Wilson.

Down in Virginia, there’s a very interesting race in the 9th congressional district, in which UMWA-backed and Roanoke Times-endorsed Democrat Anthony Flaccavento is challenging Republican Rep. Morgan Griffith, who two years ago unseated longtime Democratic Rep. Rick Boucher, at least in part because of Boucher’s support for the cap-and-trade bill that the UMWA said contained adequate provisions to ensure coal’s survival.