Dem candidate denies W.Va. is racist for rejecting Obama

West Virginia Democratic state Sen. Richard Ojeda, who is running for Congress, on Tuesday said he does not think the state should be labeled as racist for rejecting former President Obama.

Responding to a question from Hill.TV host Krystal Ball, Ojeda said that labeling the people in West Virginia as racist is “not true.”

“It's not true,” Ojeda said on Hill.TV's “Rising.”

He went on to say that West Virginia voters had trouble with the Obama administration's coal policies, not with the president's race. He said coal is “the biggest issue” for the state.

“First off, if all you have is coal, that's the only thing that we have," he said. "Don't hate the coal miner for trying to get the only decent job that we have in West Virginia that can allow them to feed their family.

“See, that's the biggest issue that we have. You know, if there was other things out there, then people would probably go for that but we don't have that.” 

Ojeda is running for Congress in a district that President TrumpDonald John TrumpCensus Bureau spends millions on ad campaign to mitigate fears on excluded citizenship question Bloomberg campaign: Primary is two-way race with Sanders Democratic senator meets with Iranian foreign minister MORE easily won in 2016 with 75 percent of the vote. Obama received only 33 percent in that district in 2012. 

Ojeda is running to replace Rep. Evan JenkinsEvan Hollin JenkinsWest Virginia New Members 2019 Republican Carol Miller holds off Democrat in West Virginia House race Trump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report MORE (R-W.Va.). 

Despite supporting Trump during the presidential campaign, Ojeda has since slammed the administration, referring to it as a “circus.” 

“Come on. It’s been a circus. Put your cellphone down. Stop tweeting and fighting with Rosie O’Donnell. Be a president. Kick your kids out of the Oval Office,” Ojeda said to Mother Jones last month. 

“When I hear Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpManufacturers group kicks off campaign to close the industry's skills gap Fed chief issues stark warning to Congress on deficits Rally crowd chants '46' for Donald Trump Jr. MORE saying how she looks forward to working side by side with Gen. Kelly, a guy who’s got 40 years’ worth of experience leading troops all across the world, and she makes handbags, come on. Be a president. We need that,” he said.

“Rising” co-host Ball leads the People's House Project, a political committee that supports Ojeda and has donated about $5,000 to his campaign in in-kind contributions and donations, according to Federal Election Commission Reports. 

— Julia Manchester