Miners union backs Dem in W.Va. Senate race

The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) union endorsed Natalie Tennant for West Virginia’s open Senate seat.

The endorsement, announced on Labor Day, came despite Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito’s attempts to tie Tennant to President Obama’s environmental policies, which are widely unpopular in coal-heavy West Virginia.

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“Natalie Tennant is standing with coal miners again in our fight against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rules that threaten our members’ jobs, our retirees’ security, and our communities’ ability to survive,” UMWA President Cecil Roberts said in a statement.

Roberts said one of the top reasons for the endorsement was Tennant’s help to preserve retiree benefits, when a major coal company went bankrupt last year. Tennant is currently West Virginia’s secretary of State.

“West Virginia coal miners give their lungs, their knees and their backs to power this country, and they deserve a senator who will put their health and safety above corporate profits,” Tennant said in a statement.

Tennant has made coal a top priority of her campaign and has made clear early on her objections to Obama’s energy policies, including the EPA’s proposal to cut carbon emissions from power plants.

In her first TV advertisement, she appealed to coal miners by turning off the lights at the White House to show how important coal is to the country.

In her own statement, Capito defended her record on coal.

“Hard-working West Virginia coal miners know that Shelley Moore Capito is the only candidate in this election fighting on their behalf every single day,” it said. “Shelley led the fight for the most significant update of mine safety laws since the 1970s and she worked alongside the UMWA to protect miners’ healthcare and pensions.”

She accused Tennant of defending Obama’s anti-coal policies and campaigning with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whom Capito said is an enemy to the industry.

Capito has led Tennant in every poll in the race.

UMWA has also endorsed Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in her Kentucky race to replace Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R).