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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 TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East 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 JenkinsJenkins resigns from House, is sworn in on W.Va. Supreme Court More than 50 Dem House challengers outraise GOP incumbents Key Republican says House taking targeted approach to combating opioid epidemic 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 TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump sends Pompeo to meet Saudi king | How Trump could work with a Dem House | Trump heads to Florida to view hurricane damage Watchdog files Hatch Act complaint against Sanders for picture with Kanye in MAGA hat The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — Latest on Hurricane Michael | Trump, Kanye West to have lunch at White House | GOP divided over potential 2020 high court vacancy 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