Coal miner slams pro-Rahall ad as 'offensive' in Jenkins robocall

State Sen. Evan Jenkins, Rep. Nick Rahall’s (D-W.Va.) Republican challenger, is launching a robocall to push back on a recent super-PAC ad that touts Rahall’s record on coal.

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The robocall, obtained first by The Hill, features a coal miner, Republican state Del. Randy Smith, who says he’s “insulted by Nick Rahall’s dishonest new ad.”

The ad in question was launched by House Majority PAC this week, and it features a man identified as retired coal miner Rick Ryan touting Rahall’s efforts to prevent “Washington from closing the Hobet Mine” and slams “New York billionaires” backing Jenkins.

But Smith says in the call that the subject of the ad “campaigned across the country for Obama’s election, and even said he supports Obama’s spread-the-wealth philosophy.”

House Majority PAC communications director Andy Stone said the robocall was just an indication Jenkins is worried about the race.

"Seems pretty clear that two-time party switcher and insurance company 'shill' Evan Jenkins is feeling the heat," he said. 

Ryan is a member of the United Mine Workers of America, which endorsed President Obama in 2008 but sat out of the 2012 election. He’s paraphrased in a 2008 Register-Herald piece as saying he supports what the reporter characterized as the "'spread the wealth' concept of Obama."

Smith goes on to charge in the robocall that “Under Obama-Rahall, about 43% of Appalachia’s coal mines have been closed or idled.” He also calls the claim in HMP’s ad that Rahall prevented the closure of the Hobet mine “hogwash.”

As evidence, he points to a Register-Herald piece in which Rahall is quoted as saying the Environmental Protection Agency’s hold on a number of mining permits for additional study — including one for the state’s Hobet mine — is “being fair to coalfield residents and to the industry.”

In that piece, Rahall defends the EPA’s decision to hold the permits for additional review as simple protocol that the mining industry had known about for a year.

While Smith charges in the robocall that “Rahall even attacked Joe Manchin for opposing EPA’s actions,” the Register-Herald piece only paraphrases Rahall as “taking exception” to Sen. Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) declaration that the EPA was trying to “kill off surface mining” through regulation.

The Hobet Mine permit was eventually approved in 2010.

In a release issued at that time, the company pursuing the permit, Patriot Coal, thanked Rahall, Manchin and other West Virginia elected officials for their “support of a constructive dialogue with the EPA” that led to the approval of the permit in a statement.

“And now Rahall’s using an Obama activist to claim he’s pro-coal? That’s flat-out offensive, and Nick Rahall should take down this false ad,” Smith adds.

He concludes: “Take it from a West Virginia coal miner who’s never campaigned for Obama: Nick Rahall’s helped Obama kill our coal jobs, and now he's lying about his record.”

Rahall's spokesman, Allan Crow, suggested the robocall was an attack on Ryan's free speech rights.

"Evan Jenkins, his partisan backers and Billionaire friends in New York have been telling so many lies about Nick Rahall's record that it is hard too keep up with them all. Now, they are attacking the First Amendment rights of a former coal miner to speak his mind and set the record straight," he said.

"The bottom line is that Nick Rahall has always stood up to the EPA and anyone else in Washington and fought for West Virginia coal miners and their jobs and he always will. All of Evan Jenkins' lies won't change that."

Rahall was recently added to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's program for vulnerable incumbents, and a survey from Jenkins' campaign earlier this week showed him down by 14 to the Republican. Coal, which makes up a large portion of West Virginia's economy, has been a central focus of Republican attacks.

He told The Hill on Wednesday, however, his polling shows a different race. And he said he believes voters are "getting tired" of the negative attacks in the race.

—This piece was updated at 5 p.m.