By Timothy Cama
Rep. Nick RahallNick RahallWest Virginia is no longer Clinton country Solution needed: Rail congestion is stifling economic growth Lobbying World MORE’s (D) nearly four-decade run representing southern West Virginia came to a halt Tuesday when he lost a tough reelection battle against a state lawmaker.
The Associated Press called the race at about 10 p.m. with 82 percent of precincts reporting. Republican Evan Jenkins had 55.1 percent of the vote to Rahall’s 44.9 percent.
The district’s deep ties to the coal industry played an important role in the race, with Jenkins repeatedly tying Rahall to President Obama’s environmental policies, which the Republican argues hurt coal workers.
Rahall bet on his defense of coal miners’ working conditions and benefits, and he accused Jenkins of supporting policies that would cut black lung disease benefits for miners.
Rahall also tried to distance himself from Obama’s policies and use his long record of support for the coal industry to his advantage.
Rahall accused Jenkins throughout the campaign of being soft on coal-miner protections and being largely supported by out-of-state groups tied to billionaire conservative activists Charles and David Koch. He also called attention to Jenkins's history as a Democrat in West Virginia’s Legislature, where he switched to the Republican Party to run against Rahall.
The Democrat stayed in Congress despite the increasingly conservative lean of his district, but he could not weather Jenkins's challenge.
Rahall was the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where he supported increased infrastructure funding.